Blazers

Sharpe Deserving of Next Maple Jordan Moniker

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Shaedon Sharpe has been looked at by many as the mystery man of the 2022 NBA Draft.

Why? He decided to sit out his lone year at Kentucky.

Now that the 2022-23 NBA season is in full swing, it’s possible the young Canadian may be ready to take on a new title before we know it.

It may be time to crown him the next Maple Jordan.

Sharpe gained massive hype coming out of high school after an electric Nike EYBL performance. He went from a near unknown to being ranked as a five-star recruit on many recruiting websites, including No. 1 on ESPN for the class of 2022 in a matter of months. 

With his newfound status, he reclassified to the class of 2021 and enrolled mid-season at Kentucky. But he was eligible for the 2022 NBA Draft and was likely going to be a top-10 pick based on his high-school tape.

So Sharpe decided to sit out his freshman year at Kentucky and declare for the draft that summer.

Sharpe ended up being taken with the No. 7 pick by the Portland Trail Blazers. The Blazers’ 2021 season was lost with only 27 wins after trading away guards CJ McCollum and Norman Powell, and losing superstar Damian Lillard to injury partway through the year.

There have been many doubts about the 6”5’ guard. With an early injury five minutes into his Summer League debut sidelining him until training camp, many fans quickly concluded that Sharpe wasn’t ready for the next level.

With the Blazers’ 2022-23 season underway, the world has finally gotten to see how his skills may translate to the pro level.

The Bad

Early Struggles

To start, Shaedon Sharpe is a rookie, and with that status comes inevitable struggles. In his very first competitive games since high school, Sharpe had some very obvious struggles right out of the gate.

The two most significant flaws in Sharpe’s game also happen to be highly correctable, those being his handle and his off-ball IQ. Throughout the entire preseason, those two things were the clearest common occurrences that signified a lack of refinement.

Which, again, is to be expected because he is a rookie.

Sharpe’s loose handle is a bit of a problem as well. He has a high dribble, which subsequently caused him to turn the ball over a fairly noticeable amount whenever he tried to drive or dribble around a guy.

This should improve, though, as there have been countless players who have come into the league with less-than-ideal handles (notably Anfernee Simons, Sharpe’s teammate) that were able to fine-tune and tighten them up to a much better point.

He also tended to stand and watch plays unfold in front of him if he wasn’t immediately involved. It looked a lot like he was trying to observe plays, pick his spots to make cuts, and see where he might fit in. While it’s good to see that he seems to be trying to learn quickly, it also meant that he wasted a lot of his time not doing much off the ball.

The Good

But that was really the extent of Sharpe’s struggles in the preseason, though. With the ball in his hands, you could see why he was so highly touted by scouts before the draft. He’s extremely gifted as a scorer, and with his silky-smooth movement, amazing footwork and textbook jumper, he’s going to be a problem.

The Athlete

All of Sharpe’s movement is super smooth. While he doesn’t seem to have the most explosive first step, he still had a lot of success getting to the rim and scoring layups with ease. Not to mention his monstrous dunks, which he seems to just float through the air for.

It’s eerily reminiscent of a former Blazers great, Clyde “The Glide” Drexler, at times.

And to stick with the theme of athleticism, it’s impossible not to notice Sharpe’s athleticism every moment he’s on the floor. With every rebound, putback, dunk or layup, Sharpe gets up there.

Every. Single. Time.

He’s a SportsCenter threat every night, which is a welcome change for a team that’s lacked athleticism for a while now. It’s a bit reminiscent of Gerald Green back in the day, except with an outside threat to worry about.

Sharpe Shooter

And the comparisons don’t stop there. Sharpe displayed his excellent shooting throughout the preseason as well, showing off a plethora of stepbacks, turnarounds, pull-ups and iso jumpers. The style in which he got those buckets started to draw comparisons to guys like Brandon Roy or a young Kobe Bryant.

Not light comparisons at all, but good ones to see if he projects to be anywhere near those guys in a couple of years.

His shooting touch is as pure as just about anybody else’s in the league. Night after night, announcers would constantly be saying things like “it’s just so effortless,” every time he would put a shot up. Consequently, it’s probably the cleanest part of his game right now and should continue to be one of the main reasons he gets on the floor this season.

Sharpe is averaging a decent 8.0 points on 46.9% from the field this season. Although he’s hit a bit of a rookie wall in the past few weeks, he started his initial campaign in excellent form. This start included a 10-game stretch where he averaged 11.4 points on an insane 56% from the field and 50% from three. He’s had spurts of offense where he looks like he has the makings of an elite scorer, something not a lot of rookies can boast.

His one truly bankable NBA skill has been his ability to spot up and knock down threes. Sharpe is converting on 37.5% of his threes this year, which forces the defense to be wary of him at all times. As long as he keeps making the defense pay, Sharpe will continue to earn minutes during crucial times this year.

Defensive Stopper?

One of the biggest surprises of the Shaedon Sharpe preseason experience was, surprisingly, his defense. Sharpe showed consistent effort on that end of the court, in contrast to how most of the team usually plays. His anticipation and timing on steals and blocks were particularly eye-opening. His insane athleticism also allowed him to get up and swat a few layups and shot attempts.

Sharpe’s two-way potential, which was alluded to throughout the draft process by coach Chauncey Billups and GM Joe Cronin, is one of the most welcome additions Sharpe could make to this team. If he can make a difference defensively for a Blazers team that ranked last in defensive rating, he’ll undoubtedly make his way into the lineup every night.

Rise of a New Star

Generally, making big statements about rookies who haven’t really played yet or proven much can lead to some freezing-cold takes. With Shaedon Sharpe, however, it seems like there’s too much smoke surrounding him for there not to be a fire. He doesn’t have all the tools yet— rookies rarely do. But once he starts to get a feel for the game, it’s possible that he might break out as one of the biggest stars of the 2022 draft.

The young Canadian has become somewhat of a symbol. Of hope for the future, of new beginnings, and for a new direction for a franchise in a dilemma. Caught between trying to compete now with its proven All-NBA caliber star, and building a youth movement for the future. If Sharpe can bridge that gap, he may very well be deserving of the title of Maple Jordan.

About Badi Cross

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