If there is one thing human beings like to do, it is to know things. Education eliminates the fear of the unknown, information, or even the mere idea of it, puts us at ease, a comfort driven by understanding. So, even when we are decidedly at a loss for information, we sometimes try to manufacture it in order to achieve that aforementioned comfort. When that information is manufactured, it is often picked up and never let go by the minds of the general populace. I believe that was a sufficiently eloquent way of saying that NBA draft comparisons kind of suck and are quite damaging most of the time, with a few prime examples in this current cycle. When a comparison is created, there are large numbers of people whose minds latch onto it in such a way that dialogue around that prospect is permanently hindered, leaving little room for nuance or legitimate analysis. Take Paolo Banchero, for instance. Whoever made that Julius Randle comparison deserves something worse than death, the dialogue around Paolo is skewed to a point that a good percentage of the basketball viewers of the world do not have a good understanding of what he is or what he does. These comparisons can also lead people to think too highly of a prospect, because they hear a name that someone has thrown out without doing much research themselves. I’m sorry, but now is the time that I finally start talking about the the enigma that is Shaedon Sharpe. He is the embodiment of everything I hate about comparisons (I know that I do the “Shades Of” thing at the end of my write ups, that is more to show specific skills and I like to think that I do some research) and how, when allowed, those comparisons can hijack the discourse around a prospect and propel them to heights that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. I regret to inform everyone here, but Shaedon Sharpe is not Jalen Green, and Shaedon Sharpe is not Anthony Edwards. Shaedon Sharpe is also not quite good enough to be a top 7 draft pick, but telling someone that Jalen Green or Anthony Edwards aren’t quite good enough to be a top 7 draft pick and everyone loses their minds. I will try to explain who Shaedon Sharpe really is, and what that type of player is really worth, because sometimes it feels like that is lost in the shuffle of draft discussions.
First, it is necessary to understand why Sharpe isn’t either of those two young, dynamic scoring guards, because on paper it feels like a pretty one to one comparison. This is where it comes down to a discussion about public perception on “athleticism” (I’m sorry, I promise I’m gonna talk about basketball soon and not this weird philosophy mumbo-jumbo). There tends to be an unwritten rule that if you are athletic in one area, you are athletic in all areas, and this couldn’t be further from the truth. Some times, it’s because of smaller subsets of athleticism (no one would call Kelly Olynyk a good athlete, but his coordination is actually pretty spectacular), but here, it’s because “explosion” is reduced to one singular skill. If you can jump high, you can move quickly laterally, you can burst from a stand still, you have great end to end speed. But while these are often quite correlated, it isn’t a guarantee, just a hope. I am not here to say that Shaedon Sharpe can’t jump high, he is the best vertical athlete in the class in my humble opinion. I am here to say that when evaluating his burst and first step from a standstill, the Jalen Green and Anthony Edwards comparison fall apart. Those players are great not only because they are excellent perimeter scorers, but because they create rim pressure at a bananas rate; Jalen Green’s first step is one of the most intimidating things I have ever seen, and Anthony Edwards is the closest thing to a cannonball that is allowed on the basketball court (not even going to get into their handles yet). They can also jump really high. Shaedon can jump really high, but he doesn’t create rim pressure at the same rate, and thus appears the disconnect in his comparisons to the real deal. I wouldn’t call Shaedon a very fast player, he tends to rely on his craft in order to create advantages, which isn’t a bad thing in and of itself but when compared to how he is viewed it is a little bit harmful. When the defining part of your comparisons game is not something that you yourself have, then that is a bad comparison.
Alright, time to talk about Shaedon Sharpe, at long last. The most intriguing part of his game is undoubtedly his shot making prowess. I wouldn’t say he has a very advanced bag in terms of his handles, but he has tons of footwork counters, gets excellent elevation on his jumpshot, and is a great off the dribble shooter. The step back that he has in his arsenal is an excellent space creator, and is smoother than most of the same shots from his 18 year old peers. The fadeaway is developing, the sidestep seems projectable, he has some excellent range, there isn’t a ton that I don’t think Sharpe will be able to do as an off the dribble, perimeter shot maker. It remains to be seen whether this shot making prowess will translate to catch and shoot opportunities because sometimes the vast difference in how the shot is prepared (rhythm is a big thing) can make an impact because he really didn’t take a lot of those in any of his situations up to this point, but purely as an isolation scoring, late shot clock creating option, he may be the best bet in the entire draft. He has excellent touch on his shot, and is the definition of a difficult shot taker, and maker (the taker aspect is sometimes undervalued, his high release point and unwavering confidence are legitimate traits that help him be a better scorer, I love Collin Gillespie and I think he’s a better shooter than Shaedon Sharpe and can therefore make more difficult shots, but he can’t take the same difficult shots due to other limitations). His footwork on his jumpshots is superb, showing some great technique that goes well beyond his years. He is exceptionally smooth with the ball in his hands, stringing together moves and getting to his spots, even if the handle isn’t all the way there yet. This smoothness does not disappear when the play falls apart either; he always has a feeling of composure about him, is rarely sped up, and is constantly finding the correct angles to attack and take advantage of. In fact, purely as a perimeter scorer, I would argue that he is a little bit more polished than Jalen Green or Anthony Edwards at the same age, even if some of the athletic traits are not shared. His change of pace is also around the top of the draft, which gives me some hope that he can overcome his lack of stand still burst. Sharpe is exceptional at shifting his weight from one side of his body to the other (I’m having some trouble explaining this without a visual aid), allowing himself to get in between small, and sometimes distant, cracks and crevices in the defense. Sometimes he gets a little too ambitious with the spots he tries to occupy but if I have said this once, I have said it one thousand times, it is so much easier to chill a player out than make them play harder or attack spaces they previously wouldn’t.
If his ability to make shots were to be surpassed by one thing, it would have to be his finishing prowess, where he is probably the most projectable guard/wing rim finisher in the class (just including the finishing, the getting to the rim is another story entirely). It all starts with his absolutely bonkers vertical athleticism and hang time, both of which haven’t been seen since… I guess Jalen Green but forget that I made that comparison please. I’m not sure I believe that he has a 49 inch vertical, the amount of short changing wingspans to get that number is pretty absurd, but he can get UP, and he can do it in a hurry as well, making him a legit threat in the dunkers spot at a kind of skinny 6’6, which isn’t something that you see every day. One thing in particular that I love about his jumping is how proficient he is jumping with either one foot or two, seeing as both give their own set advantages. When playing out of the dunkers spot, being able to leap off of two feet is huge because it provides stability and gives a certain sturdy nature to the ascension. When playing in the fast break or when streaking to the rim off of a successful move, only to see a defender waiting for you, being able to jump off of one foot is important because the load up time isn’t as significant and it gives you more opportunity to shift and contort your body mid air. To add on to one foot leaping, Sharpe is great at not just leaping entirely vertical with that foot, but propelling himself in a certain direction, even if that is not the direction he was previously heading. It is kind of hard to explain, but I think he has great lower body strength and it really shows when he is bounding in between defenders and getting great explosion even off of an oddly angled jump. His body control on the whole is phenomenal, showing great flexibility and creativity. It makes it really hard to guard when Sharpe can easily glide through and around defenders as an alternative to simply jumping over them. Shaedon also has extraordinary touch on his drives to the rim, although this could be being amplified by the fact that his combination of verticality, wingspan, and body control make it so that when he is actually close to the hoop, the ball is basically right there on top of it. It also helps that he always seems to know exactly where the hoop is, even when he doesn’t have direct view of it. This can partially be attributed to his great balance, he never looks lost, knocked off balance, or unsure of what to do while in the air. I can’t for the life of me find the number again but I know he was in the 95th percentile in rim finishing this last season which is just absolutely absurd (although explained away, at least to some extent, when you look at what types of shots he was taking there, I’ll get into it more at the end). When he gets to the rim, he is nigh unstoppable, and this is most apparent in transition offense. Sharpe has a pretty solid understanding of space in transition, always giving his ball handler enough of it while maintaining the space he needs in order to actualize his moves. He fills lanes well, and is such an explosive leaper and has such soft hands when catching alley oops that it is a done deal once the ball is in the fast break. I do like him more as an off ball guy in transition, where all he needs to do is utilize his athletic gravity, but that isn’t to say he doesn’t make good decisions with the ball in his hands. This will be his most immediate translation into the NBA, high flying transition weapon who mostly functions off of the ball.
I don’t have a ton to say on the passing actually, I think it is good, I think it’s functional, I don’t think it screams primary creator at the next level though. He has a fairly wide passing arsenal, throwing some kind of random flashy passes (maybe just because he’s bored), dispersed into functional and effective reads. I don’t think he is passing his teammates open by any means, but he has pretty solid accuracy once he sees an open teammate and his versatility as a passer is actually pretty fun. He can get a bit of tunnel vision when he does get a lane to the hoop, and there are times you can definitely tell that he predetermined what he would do in this play before the play even started (takes contested mid range when there’s an open man in the paint, forces pass to the roller in the pick and roll when reading even the first line of defense would show that it is obviously going to be picked off), but most of the time he uses his advantage creation to manufacture solid enough looks for his teammates. His pick and roll passing showed some flashes, nothing spectacular but enough to show that “hey, maybe this dude could pick up some secondary playmaking responsibilities at some point in his career if everything breaks right”. His decision making is still that of an 18 year old who has literally zero leash, but there are some encouraging flashes of what is to come in Shaedon’s passing development.
The defense tends to be one of the more contentious parts of Shaedon Sharpe discourse, and I think I have got a solid read on it, but when I say solid I mean solid in the context of watching a dominant player playing high school basketball (which is something that I very much do not like to do, gonna be watching a lot of international guys, OTE, and returners to start the cycle next year). It needs to be understood that almost no one is “good” at defense in high school, be it they don’t have a proper understanding of how the offensive player with the ball is going to attack, they can’t grasp help defense coverages yet, they’re given gargantuan assignments on the offensive end and effort on the defensive side of the ball doesn’t have the best cost benefit analysis, or the only reason they are succeeding is because they are 10 times bigger and stronger and faster than every single person they have to play. Shaedon Sharpe falls firmly into the third category… I think. Offensive engines who are also good at defense in high school are rare, and the ones that are bad at defense don’t always end up being bad at defense at the next level. Shaedon does have a very inconsistent motor; taking entire plays off is fairly normal for him, be it by relentlessly ball watching or booking it down the court the second the first shot is up only for an offensive rebound to occur, leaving his assignment to some poor overworked teenager. He plays with absolutely zero physicality on defense, his method of getting over screens by simply running the longest possible route around them is innovative; I legitimately haven’t seen anything like it. When he does get caught on a screen, he gets CAUGHT, dying on almost any contact. Sharpe gives up on plays more than maybe anyone I’ve ever scouted, and it is honestly kind of sad to watch considering how good he could be with a little bit of aggression and fight. But at the moment, he isn’t fighting for boards, he isn’t fighting for position, he isn’t fighting for the ball, and he isn’t fighting through screens. I know he can though, because there are a few plays where he decides to 100% lock in and those few plays are majestic. Sharpe shows great lateral foot speed when given the chance, allowing him to play down to most high school point guards on defense when engaged, if that engagement becomes more consistent in the NBA I expect him to at least competently guard 1-3, although at this moment it is hard to project him to be a good on the ball defender just based on the tape that we do have, not the hypothetical tape that we wish we had if he were to play in a more competitive environment (I would kill to see what Shaedon Sharpe would have done vs Saint Peters in the NCAA tournament). Off the ball, defense is a similar story; plenty of warts but some flashes some fantastical that you give him more thought than you usually would to someone with his motor. Sharpe has great timing when skying for weak side blocks, where he becomes a fairly intimidating rim protector. You can tell that he enjoys the pick 6 play, and he is solid at baiting his opponent into throwing risky passes before pouncing on it like a cornerback. I tend to give high schoolers more credit than the tape would say they are due on defense, because with time and experience a lot of the flaws naturally go away, and while I expect Sharpe to be one of the worst defenders in the league when he first enters it, with proper training I could see a world where he is a slight positive at one point in his career due to his switchability and uber-valuable weak side rim protection (which takes traits that would also apply to rebounding; holding out hope he improves in that area of his game).
I understand some reasons why people would like Shaedon Sharpe. If you have him in the top 5 because you believe that 18 year olds with that vertical athleticism, shot making, and playmaking flashes don’t come along every day, I would disagree but I would respect the argument. If you have him top 5 because of the mystery box appeal, or the exact opposite in your false belief that you have such an understanding of the prospect that is Shaedon that you can assign an exact, generational trajectory onto him, then we start to have a little bit of a problem. Shaedon Sharpe doesn’t get to the rim, at this point. Partially due to his handle (semi-fixable), partially to his burst (less fixable), and maybe due to his motor, Paolo had a similar issue in high school where he would pull up instead of going into the paint every single time (very fixable, a solid argument for the Shaedon top 5 truthers). I think that Sharpe can be elite as an off ball scorer, due to his equity as a cutter and in the dunker's spot, but this doesn’t seem to be the way that he is viewed by the consensus. That combination of shot making ability, youth, and vertical athleticism really doesn’t come along every day, but it does feel like the unreachable expectations produced by someone who hasn’t watched Shaedon Sharpe are being pumped out daily. I like Shaedon as a prospect, but I would love “Shaedon”. The thing is… “Shaedon” doesn’t exist.
Electric vertical athlete who is a dynamic shooter off of the dribble, Sharpe combines solid cutting and playmaking to create a well varied offensive profile. Tricky defense to capture, could be lack of motor and could be lack of skill. Doesn’t create paint touches by himself very well, relies on transition or teammates, significantly hampers upside.
Gary Trent Jr’s shooting, Cam Thomas’s creation, Jason Richardson’s off ball play