Projecting Shaedon Sharpe’s possible roles for Trail Blazers next season

Shaedon Sharpe, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
Shaedon Sharpe, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images) /

Shaedon Sharpe came on strong for the Portland Trail Blazers at the end of his rookie season.

As a 19-year-old who didn’t play a single minute at any level between high school and the NBA – no college, G-League Ignite, Overtime Elite, or overseas leagues – Sharpe was as raw as prospects come.

He was a mystery, albeit an explosive, athletic, talented mystery. There was no telling how much the seventh overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft would play, or how well, during his first professional season.

He showed promising flashes early, even scoring in double figures off the bench eight times in Portland’s first 14 games as the Blazers got off to a promising 10-4 start. Sharpe had 12 points in his first career contest.

His playing time hovered around the 15-20 minute mark for much of the season. Despite his clear talent, he needed to get better at the little things to earn the trust of head coach Chauncey Billups – defensive rotations, off-ball movement, playing within a scheme.

Then Portland played itself out of the postseason race, sat down its core players, and let the rookie take over. The results were promising, to say the least.

Once Damian Lillard was shut down for the season on March 24 and Sharpe was handed the keys, he played more than 35 minutes a night and averaged 23.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 4.2 assists on 46/36/78 shooting splits. He had games of 24, 29, 30, 27, 27, and 26 points.

He also had 3 turnovers on five different occasions and at least 5 in three others during that 10-game span. Those are the growing pains of a young, raw player.

Still, Sharpe proved he’s deserving of more minutes; however, he also showed he needs to continue learning the NBA game.

What should Portland expect out of its potential future star in his second season?

Predicting Shaedon Sharpe’s potential roles for the Trail Blazers in 2023-24

Role No. 1 – None

There’s a possibility Sharpe isn’t even in Portland next season. If the Blazers’ brain trust decides it’s worth it to trade future assets in order to give Damian Lillard a second star and a real run at an NBA championship, a rangy, explosive wing who proved he can score at the pro level and is only 20 years old would certainly be an attractive trade chip.

Whether or not that’s the right call would be up for debate, but if Sharpe is playing in Toronto, Boston, Brooklyn, Miami, New York, or any other city next year, this exercise becomes moot.

Blazers fans can watch Shaedon potentially (likely) develop into a star somewhere else and wonder what might have been.

Role No. 2 – Rotation player

This would be similar to the role Sharpe played in 2022-23.

He ended last season playing 22.2 minutes per game, which ranked sixth on the team for any player who played more than 40 games. That’s skewed a bit, however, by his late-season push, and he was also behind Matisse Thybulle and Cam Reddish in Billups’ pecking order once they arrived at the trade deadline.

If not much changes this offseason – Lillard and Simons return, Portland re-signs Jerami Grant, and the summer upgrades come in the form of size and depth – Sharpe might be a seventh- or eighth-man who can provide energy and microwave scoring while he continues to develop the rest of his game.

Role No. 3 – Sixth man

This might be the ideal role for both team and player. If the Blazers are contending next season but didn’t mortgage their entire future, Sharpe will still be a crucial piece of a playoff team, yet he won’t be forced into being a No. 2 or 3 offensive option.

Say Simons and Portland’s 2023 NBA Draft pick are traded for a high-level star or multiple high-level role players rather than an all-out, game-changing superstar. That would leave Lillard, Grant, Nurkic, perhaps Thybulle, and Player X as starters while giving Billups a Sixth Man of the Year candidate to bring off the bench in Sharpe.

Role No. 4 – Top offensive option

If Portland isn’t able to acquire the kind of piece(s) Dame is looking for, it’s likely he’s traded and gets a deserving chance to win a title elsewhere. In that scenario, the Blazers probably decide to blow everything up.

There wouldn’t be a reason to retain Grant. Nurkic would become an even likelier trade candidate. It would be young players and draft picks going forward.

That would leave the keys to the offense – and the franchise – in the hands of Sharpe and Simons.

Next. Trail Blazers 2023 NBA Draft Big Board 2.0. dark

That might not be the recipe for a winning season, but it sure would be a fun one.