What is Shaedon Sharpe? Future bust? Future superstar? Role player? Sharpe is the enigma of this Thursday’s draft. He could be many different things, perhaps a few at the same time. The only thing we know for sure is he’s going to be a Lottery pick. Nevertheless, Sharpe has been projected to go in the Top 10 in almost every mock draft available. The raw potential, size, athleticism, and even the mystery, make Sharpe the most intriguing player entering the 2022-2023 NBA season.
The 19-year-old, 6-foot-6 phenom from Canada sat out his entire freshman season with Kentucky due to mysterious eligibility circumstances. Many thought Sharpe would return to the court once he returned to the Wildcats’ practices. However, that was put to rest by Kentucky head coach John Calipari.
“I have told his parents that I am not going to put him in a position where he hurts himself,” said Calipari. “I am not. And we’re going to do this, the process of this, and if he ends up playing this year because he’s capable of doing it and he can play, we’ll play him. But I’m not just shoving him in so we can win another game or stay closer. I’m not going to do that.”
It was never really explained what the hell was going on. And the general public, outside of NBA insiders, will never know. So what do we have to look at for what Sharpe can be in the NBA?
During Sharpe’s senior year at Arizona’s Dream City Christian, he was ranked No. 1 in his class by ESPN, 247Sports, and Rivals. Hence, the hype around him, as he was only the second No 1 five-star recruit to choose Kentucky, after Nerlens Noel in 2013.
The Canadian is another in a long line of excellent players coming from our northern neighbors, starting with Steve Nash and continuing with R.J. Barrett, Andrew Wiggins, Jamal Murray, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Dillon Brooks, and Lu Dort. By entering this year’s draft, Sharpe is riding the wave of his abstraction. If he were to go back to college and get hurt or show that he’s not as pro-ready as we all thought he was, his stock would plummet. Even with zero collegiate tape to review, he’s destined to be a lottery pick.
Outside of the college game, Sharpe averaged 22.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game while shooting 36.1 percent from 3 on the Nike EYBL circuit in 2021, per Cerebro Sports. While competing in the international elite prep basketball circuit, The Grind Session, he averaged 18.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.4 steals, and 0.8 blocks per game.
Physically, Sharpe is the whole package — he possesses a lightning-quick first step, a penchant for excelling downhill, and a dynamic toolset to finish around the rim. Scouts marveled during the combine at his improved ball-handling, pull-up jump shot, and accuracy from the three-point line. The downside is none of these observations occurred during a regular NCAA season. Even more critical is the NCAA Tournament. We have yet to see how Sharpe performs on the biggest stages during crunch time. Dominating in high school is still just high school.
There are clear red flags that would make his fit in Detroit or any of the developing teams in the top seven worrisome. There have been critiques of his motor dating back to high school. Scouts have described Sharpe as bored and uninterested on defense, terrible qualifiers for a kid who has all the physical gifts to be a two-way stud. Effort is unteachable. You either have it, or you don’t. It’s not something that suddenly changes once you begin playing against the best players in the world.
If he were to land in Detroit or Sacramento, two of the most-likely situations barring trades, he would be joining teams with long histories of losing. While Detroit has fared better than Sacramento recently in draft selections and player development, Sharpe would at least be playing next to a pure point guard in Cade Cunningham. This could be the best-case scenario for the young prodigy. If the ball were out of his hands, it would be easier to acclimate Sharpe into head coach Dwayne Casey’s system. Cunningham is a great facilitator, even as a rookie this year. He also dealt with motor issues in college but has proven to be ready for the bright lights of the NBA grind.
The Pistons are growing something special in Detroit and doing it at a slow-and-steady pace. Sharpe could be the three-level scorer their roster needs to act as a shot of adrenaline on offense. And playing next to the steady hand of Cunningham would give the Pistons a larger-than-life backcourt that could grow and mold together, as the team builds toward being more than an unknown quantity. It’s a situation that can lift an enigma to the light to inspect it for what it is and can be.