Plenty of hot rumors have been following the Portland Trail Blazers ahead of the 2022 NBA Draft. Orlando Magic, Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets have top picks, but consensus is pretty strong on the three players who will be selected there. It remains only to define the final order. When the Blazers draw in 7th position, the lottery draw will be like the Wild West: everything is allowed and who knows what will happen.
Most of the talk in Portland was about the exchange of choice. With severe frontcourt needs and a short timeframe to meet them, the Blazers should be in the market for quality veteran help, the kind a mid-lottery pick could provide via an exchange. But yesterday a new rumor emerged that the Portland front office is inclined to keep the pick to draft the mysterious Shaedon Sharpe phenomenon. A nod of approval from Damian Lillard seemed to reinforce the claim, which is now the topic of today’s Blazer’s Edge Mailbag.
Are Sharpe Reports Real? Can’t believe the Blazers would prefer him, but BPA, right? Is he the BPA though? Does anyone really know?
Let’s analyze the factors:
1. Are the Blazers drafting on their own?
I am not convinced. Keep in mind that Sharpe’s attraction is one of the many voices surrounding the club. I don’t find this any more or less credible than the commercial tips we have heard earlier. Given the Portland situation, I still think a trade is much more likely.
Even if they don’t have a deal in place, it’s possible the Blazers will draft Sharpe as a future commercial lure if they get stuck with their own pick. He is 18, he is inexperienced, he has a high ceiling and a lot of buzz surrounds him. Taking 2-3 years to develop is part of the expectations in that scenario. Unless he’s completely busted, the “to-to-date” date on his commercial worth of him should be longer than your average pick in the mid-lottery, many of which will settle into comfortable, non-star roles in the meantime.
They will not choose it if they do not perceive any promises, of course. But if they can see the ceiling and a path to get there. it wouldn’t be a bad high risk / high reward move. In essence, they would define “Best Available Player” as “Higher ceiling and longer term value”.
2. Can Sharpe play?
All we know is that Sharpe can play ball. You don’t get mentioned in this position with no proven track record unless your skills are otherworldly. He has good height and a large wingspan as a guard. He is a true athlete. He’ll give it a seam and it’ll be snapped up.
Creating seams against NBA defenders, learning spacing and defense, and facing the speed of professional play will all be challenges for Sharpe. My gut says he’s going to be a “hiccup” rookie, with some performances making ESPN amidst an overall struggle to fit in.
If you want to take a more detailed look at Sharpe, you can see Steve Dewald’s draft profile on him, as well as SBNation’s Ricky O’Donnell article on his development.
3. Does Sharpe fit?
The Blazers may be in the right place, tactically, to absorb Sharpe’s learning curve. Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons will start. This doesn’t leave 30 minutes per game for a beginner to stumble upon. Sharpe’s minutes would be targeted, his role suited to his abilities.
“Mark 10 and try to learn the game” is an anemic job description for a mid-lottery beginner, but it’s an exciting possibility for your heavy novice bench guard. And who better than Lillard and Simons, two of the best offensive guards in the league, could play behind in this sense? Blazers shouldn’t have changed much for Sharpe. He is high octane and a green light all the way through … perfectly suited to his abilities.
The big question is whether the Blazers are in the right place to strategically enlist Sharpe. You can enter the familiar trope about Damian Lillard turning 32 here. They need help now, not four years from now. They need guaranteed production, not great risk, particularly from a backcourt player.
There is also the matter of Josh Hart, who naturally plays as a shooting guard, who should soak up the minutes on defense and who will provide far more comprehensive support than Sharpe can hope for at this stage. One might guess that Sharpe’s drafting and retention would have prevented Portland from detaining Hart. He would be available to trade, but would that move series really be superior to keeping the all-round veteran and swapping the choice or the rookie?
4. Does Lillard want it?
We’ll talk more about it in tomorrow’s edition of the Dave and Dia Podcast, but I find it funny the almost electric sizzle that went through NBA social media yesterday while Lillard and Sharpe were connected.
I’m not in Lillard’s head and I’m more than willing to be fair here.
Do I think Damian Lillard considers Sharpe an exceptional athlete with the potential to become a celebrity? Sure. The game recognizes the game. Lillard also called Donovan Mitchell in 2017. It wouldn’t be the first time.
Do I think this means Sharpe is the best choice, even for Lillard? Less so. To me, he’s like a dad who walks the kids to the mall and says, “This is a nice tie.” Kids get the idea that dad likes ties and voila! He gets 32 ties for Father’s Day, just from one casual comment.
I don’t think Lillard would be upset if the Blazers took Sharpe, at least not for the internal qualities that the rookie possesses. I imagine he, like the rest of us, would be willing to consider other alternatives. I find this supposed link between the less compelling reasons Blazers would have picked up a flyer on Sharpe on Draft Day.
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