We’re witnessing Shaedon Sharpe single-handedly evolve the Trail Blazers

Shaedon Sharpe, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Amanda Loman/Getty Images)
Shaedon Sharpe, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Amanda Loman/Getty Images) /

The Portland Trail Blazers officially ceased caring about winning any more games this season when the team shut down Damian Lillard (and quietly also Jerami Grant, Anfernee Simons, and Jusuf Nurkic). The reigns have been handed over to 19-year-old rookie Shaedon Sharpe for the final few weeks.

To be clear, no one’s taking the franchise from Dame. Portland belongs to him until he decides it doesn’t.

But Sharpe is showing, albeit in an incredibly small sample size, flashes of how he may succeed Lillard as the franchise’s next superstar.

Maybe this is no longer a conversation about “someday,” though. Sure, Sharpe may morph into Portland’s organizational centerpiece – but it’s time to seriously consider the idea that he’s not just the future for the Blazers. He’s the present.

Shaedon Sharpe’s evolution could make the Blazers contenders in the West

Shaedon has gone from a potential star to a player that can change the Blazers’ roster construction as early as next year.

It’s hard not to get overexcited and become a prisoner of the moment, and maybe he could have played like this had he only gotten the opportunity earlier in the season.

Again, this is an amazingly small sample size of just five games dating back to March 22 (including one with Lillard, who scored 30 points in a loss to Utah), but it’s almost impossible not to marvel at what Sharpe’s done since Portland decided to shut down its core four.

  • He’s top 25 in the NBA in scoring, averaging 23. 8 points.
  • He scored a career-high 24 points on March 22, tied that career high two nights later, scored a career-high 29 points two nights after that, and then scored another career-high 30 points three nights after that.
  • He’s averaging 2.8 rebounds this year. He has 33 total the past five games.
  • He’s averaging 0.9 assists this season. He has 16 over the past five games, including 7 against the Sacramento Kings March 29.
  • He’s averaging 37 percent shooting from three this year on 3.2 attempts per game. In the past five games, Sharpe’s shooting 45 percent from deep on 8 attempts a night.

This is all well and good with no one to take shots away from him (Shaedon’s averaging 11 more field goal attempts the past handful of contests), but what happens when Lillard, Simons, Grant (fingers crossed), and Nurkic come back next season?

Surely Sharpe will lose some opportunities – but are we sure he should lose that many?

Lillard averaged more than 20 field-goal attempts per game this year before he was shut down. Simons was around 17, while Grant averaged 14.5. Is there any reason Shaedon shouldn’t be somewhere in the vicinity of at least 12-14? Is he a better offensive option than Grant? Than Simons?

The fact that this is even a conversation proves that a 19-year-old rookie who didn’t play a single minute in college, overseas, or in the G-League, is changing how the Blazers will play as soon as next season.

Could/should he replace Simons in the starting lineup? He’s already a better defender, which by default makes him a better fit next to Lillard. If not, how many minutes does he play off the bench as a sixth man? Is he a better option than Ant to close games because of his defense?

Maybe head coach Chauncey Billups can throw out some different lineup combinations, depending on what happens to the roster during the offseason. It wouldn’t necessarily help the Blazers lack of size, but a lineup of Lillard-Simons-Sharpe-Grant-Player X would have scoring, athleticism, length, and two solid on-ball defenders.

Make Player X Matisse Thybulle or Cam Reddish and that group gets a further injection of athleticism, length, and either another scorer (Reddish) or one of the best defensive players in the NBA (Thybulle).

Next. 7 players Portland gave up on too soon. dark

The point is this: Sharpe isn’t someone who can fill Dame’s shoes in the future. We’re witnessing him evolve into a player who can completely change the Blazers outlook immediately.

Maybe that alone doesn’t make Portland a legitimate championship contender, but adding this version of Shaedon into the lineup on a regular basis raises the franchise’s ceiling dramatically, and it does so right now.