2022 NBA Draft pick Shaedon Sharpe helps Trail Blazers ride fence

Shaedon Sharpe, Portland Trail Blazers, 2022 NBA Draft (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
Shaedon Sharpe, Portland Trail Blazers, 2022 NBA Draft (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /

With the seventh pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, the Portland Trail Blazers selected University of Kentucky Wildcat Shaedon Sharpe. Originally the number one high school recruit in the class of 2022, Sharpe decided to graduate from high school early and enroll at UK for the spring semester of 2021, making him eligible to play for the Wildcats in their last campaign.

Surprisingly, Sharpe elected to hold himself out for the season, despite being fully healthy and practicing with the team. Questions were raised over whether or not Sharpe would declare for the 2022 NBA Draft or if he planned to return to Kentucky for their 2022-2023 season.

Despite not having any game tape against collegiate competition to show scouts, Sharpe bet that his blue-chip pedigree and pre-draft workouts would be enough to secure himself a future in the NBA and ultimately declared. After choosing not to participate in the NBA Draft Combine’s scrimmages and putting out several lackluster interviews that put his dedication and IQ into suspicion, there were rumors that his draft stock was starting to tank.

Shaedon Sharpe, Portland Trail Blazers, 2022 NBA Draft
Shaedon Sharpe, Portland Trail Blazers, 2022 NBA Draft (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /

The Portland Trail Blazers continue on tight-rope with 2022 NBA Draft pick Shaedon Sharpe

He was originally considered as a consensus second-tier prospect in this year’s draft class, a safe bet to be selected after the cream of the crop in Paolo Banchero, Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith Jr., and Jaden Ivey. But his question marks proved to be too much for the top six teams in the draft, and he fell into the laps of the Portland Trail Blazers.

This was a selection that was somehow both expected and shocking. Those paying attention would have seen this coming from a mile away once it was known that Sharpe would be available when the Blazers were on the clock. Portland held him for a private workout, and he subsequently cancelled his meeting with the New Orleans Pelicans — the team that held the pick immediately after the Blazers’.

Still, despite all of the hints, many Blazers fans and media members suspected that all of the noise was simply a smokescreen — perhaps a ploy to get a team that was enamored with the Canadian prospect to trade up with Portland in order to secure his services. While his pure talent and original high school ranking suggest that he was a logical choice at seven, his fit with both the team’s current roster and timeline is questionable at best.

At 6’5 with practically a high schooler’s build and no experience against higher competition, there’s no chance that Sharpe would be able to survive on defense alongside Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons as their starting small forward. Even with newly acquired Jerami Grant and Jusuf Nurkic holding down the backline, a perimeter defense that features Dame, Ant, and Sharpe projects to be an absolute layup line for opposing teams.

So did they secure a sixth-man with their seventh-overall pick? That seems like quite the farsighted move when measured against Dame’s remaining prime years. While he’s not as raw as other project pieces such as Ousmane Dieng, he’ll likely need a year or two to grow accustomed to competing against NBA size and athleticism, especially when factoring in the fact that he didn’t play a single minute in college.

This move felt like the perfect selection for the Blazers to continue teetering on the tight rope that newly minted General Manager Joe Cronin was thrust upon. He’s now tasked with riding a fence that prevents him from either overcommitting to Damian Lillard’s present and mortgaging the Blazers’ future or completely abandoning Dame while he’s still in the middle of his prime in an unabashed tank job.

Sharpe is the perfect blend of talented enough to sell to Dame while having the upside to be a part of the post-Lillard era.

Perhaps I’m wrong, and the Blazers simply took the most talented player on the board in hopes of trading him later. If he’s to be part of a sign-and-trade deal — maybe for the Phoenix Suns’ Deandre Ayton or the Charlotte Hornets’ Miles Bridges — then the transaction wouldn’t be able to be announced until free agency begins on July 1.

But if he’s to be a part of the Blazers future, both long-term and next season, then it’s an indicator that the franchise still hasn’t committed themselves in either direction, instead electing to perform a balancing act that’s almost certain to end the way all Jenga games do.

Next. Jody Allen needs to either sell or buy into the Portland Trail Blazers. dark