What is Shaedon Sharpe? Future bust? Future superstar? Role player? Sharpe is the enigma of this Thursday’s design. He can be many different things, maybe a few at once. All we know for sure is that he will be a lottery pick. Nevertheless, Sharpe is expected to make it into the Top 10 in almost every available mock draft. Its raw potential, size, athleticism and even 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 conditions. Many thought Sharpe would return to court once he returned to the Wildcats’ practices. However, that was put to rest by Kentucky head coach John Calipari.
“I’ve told his parents I’m not going to put him in a position where he hurts himself,” Calipari said. “I’m not. And we’re going to do this, the process of this, and if he’s going to play this year because he can and can play, then we’re going to play against him. But I’m not just pushing him in so we can have another game win or be able to stay closer. I’m not going to do that.”
It was never really explained what the hell was going on. And the general public, other than NBA insiders, will never know. So what should we be looking at for what Sharpe could be in the NBA?
During Sharpe’s senior year with Dream City Christian in Arizona, he was ranked #1 in his class by ESPN, 247Sports and Rivals. Hence the hype surrounding him, as he was only the second No. 1 five-star recruit to choose Kentucky, after Nerlen’s Noel in 2013.
The Canadian is another in a long line of outstanding players hailing from our northern neighbors, starting with Steve Nash and continuing with RJ Barrett, Andrew Wiggins, Jamal Murray, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Dillon Brooks, and Lu Dort. By participating in this year’s design, Sharpe is riding the wave of his abstraction. If he went back to college and got hurt or showed that he’s not as pro-ready as we all thought he was, his stash would plummet. Even with zero collegiate tape to judge, 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 as he shot 36.1 percent from 3 on the Nike EYBL track in 2021, according to Cerebro Sports. While competing in the elite international 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 boasts a lightning-fast first step, a penchant for excelling on descents and a dynamic toolset for finishing around the rim. Scouts marveled at its improved ball handling, pull-up jump shot and accuracy from the three-point line during the combine. The downside is that none of these sightings occurred during a regular NCAA season. Even more important is the NCAA tournament. We have yet to see how Sharpe performs on the biggest stages during crunch time. Dominating high school is still just high school.
There are obvious red flags that would worry him in Detroit or any of the developing teams in the top seven. There are critiques of his motorcycle dating back to high school. Scouts have described Sharpe as bored and disinterested in defense, terrible qualifications for a kid who has all the physical gifts to be a two-way stallion. Effort cannot be learned. You either have it or you don’t. It’s not something that suddenly changes once you start playing against the best players in the world.
If he landed in Detroit or Sacramento, two of the most likely trade-barring situations, he’d be joining teams with long histories of losses. While Detroit has outperformed Sacramento in draft rosters and player development recently, Sharpe would at least play alongside a pure point guard in Cade Cunningham. This could be the best-case scenario for the young prodigy. If the ball was out of his hands, it would be easier to acclimate Sharpe to 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 rut.
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 an adrenaline rush. And playing alongside Cunningham’s steady hand would give the Pistons a larger-than-life backcourt that could grow and mold together as the team evolves into more than an unknown quantity. It is a situation that an enigma can lift to the light to inspect it for what it is and can be.