Plenty of hot rumors have followed the Portland Trail Blazers in the lead-up to the 2022 NBA Draft. The Orlando Magic, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Houston Rockets have the prime picks, but the consensus is pretty strong on the three players who will be selected there. Only the final order remains to be determined. By the time the Blazers draft in the 7th position, the lottery board will be like the Wild West: anything goes, and who knows what will happen.
Most of the talk in Portland has surrounded trading the pick. With severe frontcourt needs and a short timetable to fulfill them, the Blazers should be in the market for quality, veteran help, the kind a mid-lottery pick could provide via trade. But yesterday a new rumor arose, that Portland’s front office is leaning towards keeping the pick to draft mysterious phenom Shaedon Sharpe. A nod of approval from Damian Lillard appeared to bolster the claim, which is now the subject of today’s Blazer’s Edge Mailbag.
Are the Sharpe reports real? I can’t believe the Blazers would go for him but BPA, right? Is he the BPA though? Does anybody really know?
Let’s break down the factors:
1. Are the Blazers drafting for themselves?
I’m not convinced. Keep in mind that attraction to Sharpe is one of many rumors surrounding the club. I don’t find it any more or less credible than the trade suggestions we heard prior. Given Portland’s situation, I still think a swap is far more likely.
Even if they don’t have a deal in place, it’s possible the Blazers will draft Sharpe as future trade bait if they get stuck with their own pick. He’s 18, inexperienced, has a high ceiling, and plenty of buzz surrounds him. Taking 2-3 years to develop is part of the expectation in that scenario. Unless he busts completely, the “best by” date on his trade value should be longer than your average mid-lottery pick, many of whom will settle into comfortable, non-star roles in the meantime.
They won’t select him if they don’t perceive any promise, of course. But if they can see the ceiling and a path to get there. he wouldn’t be a bad high risk/high reward move. In essence, they’d be defining “Best Player Available” as “Highest Ceiling and Longest-Term Value”.
2. Can Sharpe play?
Everything we know says that Sharpe can ball. You don’t get mentioned in this position with zero proven track record unless your abilities are otherworldly. He’s got good height and great wingspan for a guard. He’s a true athlete. Give him a seam and he’s going to hit paydirt.
Creating seams against NBA defenders, learning spacing and defense, and coping with the speed of the professional game will all be challenges for Sharpe. My gut says he’s going to be a “hiccup” rookie, with a few performances that make ESPN amid a general struggle to adapt.
If you want a more detailed look at Sharpe, you can see Steve Dewald’s draft profile of him, plus SBNation’s Ricky O’Donnell’s article about his development.
3. Does Sharpe fit?
The Blazers could be in the right place, tactically, to absorb Sharpe’s learning curve. They’re going to start Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons. That doesn’t leave 30 minutes per game for a rookie to stumble through. Sharpe’s minutes would be targeted, his role suited to his ability.
“Score 10 and try to learn the game” is an anemic job description for a mid-lottery-pick starter, but it’s an exciting possibility for your offense-heavy rookie bench guard. And who better to play behind in that regard than Lillard and Simons, two of the best offensive guards in the league? The Blazers wouldn’t have to shift much for Sharpe. It’s high octane and a green light all the way...perfectly suited to his ability.
The big question is whether the Blazers are in the right place to draft Sharpe strategically. You can insert the familiar trope about Damian Lillard turning 32 here. They need help now, not four years from now. They need guaranteed production, not big risk, particularly from a backcourt player.
There’s also the matter of Josh Hart, who plays shooting guard naturally, who is slated to absorb backcourt minutes, and who will provide far more all-around support than Sharpe can hope to at this stage. One would guess that drafting and keeping Sharpe would preclude Portland from retaining Hart. He’d be available for trades, but would that series of moves really be superior to keeping the well-rounded veteran and trading away the pick or the rookie?
4. Does Lillard want him?
We’re going to talk about this more in tomorrow’s edition of the Dave and Dia Podcast, but I find the near-electric sizzle that went through NBA social media yesterday as Lillard and Sharpe were linked amusing.
I am not in Lillard’s head and I am more than willing to be corrected here.
Do I believe Damian Lillard regards Sharpe as a superb athlete with potential for stardom? Yes, I do. Game recognizes game. Lillard also called Donovan Mitchell in 2017. It wouldn’t be the first time.
Do I believe that means Sharpe is the pick, even for Lillard? Less so. This feels to me like a dad walking with kids in the mall and saying, “That’s a nice tie.” The kids pick up the idea that Dad likes neckwear and, voila! He gets 32 ties for Father’s Day, just from a casual comment.
I don’t think Lillard would be upset if the Blazers took Sharpe, at least not for any internal quality the rookie possesses. I’m guessing he, like the rest of us, would also be willing to consider other alternatives. I find this purported link among the least convincing reasons that the Blazers would take a flyer on Sharpe on Draft Day.
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