TUALATIN — If there is one prospect in the 2022 NBA draft that best fits the label of “boom or bust,” it might be guard Shaedon Sharpe.
Sharpe, who attended but did not play for Kentucky last season, is an athletic marvel who looked the part in high school and on the AAU circuit but doesn’t have collegiate game video to support the idea that he is ready to make the jump to the NBA.
But Sharpe is further proof that many prospects don’t need to play in college in order to catch the eyes of NBA scouts, even those with teams that own high draft picks. Sharpe, rated as the no. 3 recruit in the country by 247sports in 2020, is on the radar of most NBA teams with lottery picks in the June 23 draft.
So much so that out of the 12 mock drafts used by NBA.com in its consensus mock draft report, just two had Sharpe available at No. 7 when the Portland Trail Blazers will select, while six had him off the board by pick No. 5.
The possibility that Sharpe, who turned 19 on May 30, could be had by the Blazers is strong enough that they brought him, and five other prospects, in for a workout on Wednesday. Among the attendees was Baylor forward Jeremy Sochan, a projected lottery pick who left the facility before the media was allowed in for interviews, and Arizona guard/forward Dalen Terry, projected to be a potential late first-round pick.
The Blazers’ biggest need remains power forward. But the best among that group are expected to be gone within the top five picks and that includes Iowa’s Keegan Murray. Should Murray fall to No. 7, it’s reasonably safe to expect the Blazers to pounce. That is, if they don’t trade the selection, which is a strong possibility given that veteran talent would fit better around Damian Lillard, who turns 32 next month.
If Murray is gone, then the Blazers would be left to sift through several guards, small forwards and big men who lack offensive punch. If Sharpe is among that group, Portland could have a tough time resisting.
Given his inexperience beyond high school, Sharpe could offer the least in the way of instant impact as a rookie. But he might project to be the biggest future star in the group.
Chances are that Sharpe had played for Kentucky or returned next season with the Wildcats, he could have played his way into being a sure-fire top-five selection.
What does the 6-foot-6 Sharpe offer? Ridiculous athleticism (reported 49-inch vertical) and a butter-soft jumper that he releases effortlessly. Playing in the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League, Sharpe shot 36.4% on threes while averaging 22.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game. Not spectacular shooting, but then again, he was just 17 and the stroke looks pure.
Of course, all of the above has been said about many prospects over the decades. None of it means that Sharpe will become a star. But he has the special physical traits many stars possess.
The problem with Sharpe not playing at Kentucky is that it’s more difficult to measure his competitiveness, toughness, tenacity and skill development without having watched him in action against college players in big games.
That cannot be said for Arizona guard Bennedict Mathurin, Memphis center Jalen Duren, Duke forward AJ Griffin or Sochan, all of whom have worked out for the Blazers.
Therefore, it’s more difficult to determine whether Sharpe is closer to being the next Jaylen Brown, or the next Josh Jackson.
Should Sharpe land on the Blazers, the hope would be that he could come off the bench as a rookie to provide athleticism, length and at least solid shooting. Down the road, after Lillard retires, Sharpe and Anfernee Simons could form one of the most athletic backcourts in the NBA.
Sharpe said that he feels like he has more to prove during workouts because he didn’t play at Kentucky, which proved frustrating.
Sharpe enrolled in January and practiced with Kentucky but ultimately elected not to play in games because he would turn 19 in May and become eligible for the draft.
Still, he lamented missing out on a year of competing at the college level. But that reality didn’t stop him from making the jump to the NBA. He believes he is ready for the challenge and hasn’t hurt his stock during workouts.
“I feel like I’m doing good throughout this process,” Sharpe said.
He also said he is prepared to fill whatever need a team might have for him.
“I want to go to a team where I can compete,” he said.
Among the teams Sharpe said he has visited are Oklahoma City (the Nos. 2 and 12 picks), Orlando (No. 1), Charlotte (Nos. 13 and 15) and San Antonio (Nos. 9, 20 and 25).
— Aaron Fentress | afentress@Oregonian.com | @AaronJFentress (Twitter), @AaronJFentress (Instagram), @AaronFentress (Facebook).
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