Player No. 3: Shaedon Sharpe
While Little needs to prove himself this year and Simons is poised to, it feels like Sharpe is under the most pressure to show a real level of improvement.
The 20-year-old showed at the end of last season he can carry an offense – even one on a losing team at the height of tanking season.
It’s been thrown around a lot this summer, but it bears mentioning again: In the final 10 games of 2022-23, the rookie 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.
Although that stretch showed Sharpe’s ability to score in bunches, it also set the bar extremely high for a player who remains raw entering his second professional season. (He had 3 turnovers on five different occasions and at least 5 in three others during that 10-game span.)
Billups had a hard time trusting the then-rookie with real minutes in important stretches because of his lack of knowledge and grasp of the NBA game. Shaedon’s defensive rating of 118.4 was worst on the team for any player who played more than 40 games and averaged at least 20 minutes.
That number is worse than both Lillard and Simons, two small guards dramatically limited on that end of the floor. Sharpe’s size, length and athleticism should make him an above-average defender, which he’s far from being at the moment.
The raw, physical skills are clearly there, but it’s the development in the other parts of his game – defense, rebounding, playmaking, efficiency – that he needs to show in order to prove himself as a future star in the league.