Shaedon Sharpe’s all-rookie case fittingly hinges on an emphatic finish

Shaedon Sharpe, Portland Trail Blazers - Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Shaedon Sharpe, Portland Trail Blazers - Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports /
1 of 3

With a lottery embedded in its construction, it’s no wonder that many view the NBA draft as a bit of a crapshoot. For every player that breaks out during their rookie year, there is another who busts. For every great rookie class, there’s another full of disappointments and unfulfilled potential.

So far, the jury is still a bit out on this year’s crop of rookies, including Portland Trail Blazers NBA frosh Shaedon Sharpe.

Overall, the 2022 draft class is somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. While some players like Paolo Banchero, Jalen Williams, and Bennedict Mathurin have quickly carved out roles on their respective teams, others like Dalen Terry, Ousmane Dieng, and Jake LaRavia have had a slower start to their careers.

Shaedon Sharpe sits somewhere in between those starters and projects. He’s put up solid but not overly impressive stats so far, earned a chunk of inconsistent playing time, and has only recently started to put together a stretch of good games (which has happened in concert with Anfernee Simons’ absence.)

With about a fourth of the season left, eyes are starting to turn toward the NBA awards on the horizon. Sharpe’s been better than many rookies, but has he done enough to earn a spot on either the first or second all-rookie teams this year?

How has Shaedon Sharpe performed during his rookie season?

Sharpe’s path to Portland was fraught with twists and turns last year. He moved up a high school class in order to play at Kentucky in their second semester but ended up leaving before playing a game for the Wildcats. He was a mystery man before the 2022 NBA Draft.

That didn’t really hurt his stock, as he was taken seventh overall by the Blazers. Sharpe wasn’t expected to start, as the team already had Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons. Instead, Sharpe was a high-risk, high-reward swing that the team made to bolster its bench.

It’s been a mixed bag, to put it mildly, with Sharpe so far. He isn’t blowing anyone away with his 8 points and handful of rebounds a game, even though he’s doing so on some solid efficiency for a rookie at 47 percent from the field and 35 percent from deep.

Watch any stretch of Sharpe’s play for long enough, though, and you’re likely to have your mind wiped by an astronomical dunk, a trademark of his game so far:

He’s been a menace in transition or off cuts to the rim, using his otherworldly hops and long wingspan to detonate on rims. There’s simply nothing a defense can do to stop him on a fast break or when he has momentum toward the basket.

Add in a solid enough shot from deep and an improving handle, and you can start to see the flashes of a great offensive player.

Recently, those flashes have been brighter than before, as Sharpe’s had double-digit scoring games in four of his past five contests. Per Statmuse, he’s shot better from 2- and 3-point range during this time as well, which has helped him break out just a bit more.

These recent flashes aren’t consistent enough to make that much of an impact, however, as Sharpe is only sixth on the team in scoring and doesn’t often play crunch time minutes. While he can bring the house down with one of his possessions, he’s too often absent from the action otherwise when he’s on the floor.

Sadly, Sharpe’s defense has been right in line with that of a usual rookie, which has dulled his offensive impact. Part of his struggles are understandable, as he’s barely played organized basketball since COVID-19. On the other hand, he hasn’t been disciplined on or off of the ball, which has led to him being part of many of Portland’s worst defensive lineups.

All in all, the outlook on Sharpe is mostly rosy. He’s one of most exciting Blazers in recent memory due to his gravity-shattering hops, but so far, most of what Sharpe has shown is a flash of what he could be in a few years once he learns the ins and outs of the NBA.

He’s been a rotation player for sure, but he hasn’t done enough to crack a consistent role or the starting lineup.