Kentucky guard Shaedon Sharpe officially declared for the 2022 NBA Draft while maintaining his college eligibility on Thursday afternoon.
While this announcement was expected, the journey to this point has made an already difficult evaluation even more difficult for NBA decision makers drafting inside the lottery.
To start, NBA decision makers, in large part, have not had the chance to evaluate the former five-star prospect in person.
The NBA did allow personnel to attend and evaluate the Nike Peach Jam last July, during which the 6-foot-5 two guard competed for Dwayne Washington’s UPlay Canada U17 program.
Unfortunately for NBA organizations, Peach Jam fell during the same week as the 2021 NBA Draft. Because of that, very few decision makers were actually in the building and some teams didn’t even send scouts to the event in North Augusta, SC as they were all hands on deck in preparation for Draft day.
At Peach Jam, Sharpe averaged 22 points per game and was surging up the rankings earning his way to the top spot in the 2022 class. All the while rumors swirled that he was able to enroll as a member of the 2021 class. But his advisor, Washington, was denying all the rumblings of a possible reclassification which gave the NBA the impression that they still had plenty of time to still evaluate the highly touted prospect.
Fast forward and Sharpe ultimately committed to Kentucky over the G League’s Ignite program. Shortly after, news broke that Sharpe was strongly reconsidering reclassifying and he played his final games of live competition with Glendale (Ariz.) Dream City Christian during the fall. Nearly a month later, Sharpe officially announced his reclassification and that he’d enroll and redshirt at Kentucky.
Unfortunately for Kentucky, it’s been a downhill slope ever since and it hasn’t all been the fault of Sharpe.
Regardless of the speculation if Sharpe would play or not, he frankly never took live action at Kentucky and the only evaluating NBA decision makers took in were in private workouts at Joe Craft Center and by watching practices, making them much more reliant upon high school film – which is an obstacle in itself to find and to evaluate.
The best sample size they will find is 310 total clips of offense and 69 clips of defense from 12 total games of Peach Jam action on Synergy Sports Tech – which films, cuts clips and categorizes tape of prospects into their own database as an evaluating tool.
While that may sound like a lot – it’s frankly not.
For example, Jabari Smith – who is contention as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 Draft – currently has 626 total clips of offense and 224 clips of defense against college competition in the Synergy database on top of a full season available for decision makers to go watch in-person.
From personal experience of watching Sharpe since he was a sophomore in high school at Sunrise Christian until now, it’s clear that he’s been on a path that makes him one of the most promising prospects in this year’s draft.
However, it’s one thing for one person on the grassroots landscape to say he’s a top five talent when they aren’t one of the people risking their jobs based on how well their picks work out.
Moving forward, all the lottery organizations will have to work with are likely to be one-on-zero workouts in which Sharpe along with a trainer will take the floor and undergo a workout with no competition. In all honesty, he is going to look incredible in such a setting.
He’s explosive with a 40+ inch vertical, he makes shots with range, he has polished footwork, the body, the talent and can drill with the best of them. Sharpe will display an impressive workout in front of NBA organizations amongst a poor Draft class and present them with a high risk, high reward scenario.
Sharpe truly has the potential to be one of the most prolific scorers in the world but the NBA teams have yet to see it live in an organized structure against high level competition. Not only that but he has raised questions that haven’t received answers in regards to his competitive nature, often coasting through games and playing with a demeanor that seemed to be “too cool” on the floor.
On top of that, the last six months have been filled with mixed messaging from him and his camp. He denied reclassifying but reclassified. He went from saying he was graduating in December of 2021 to presenting a diploma with a May gradation date. He enrolled early and announced he would redshirt and then said it was on the coaching staff to play him this season. Then repeatedly stated on record that he would be coming back for the 2022-23 season meanwhile behind the scenes talk suggested he would be leaving for the NBA Draft on the first thing smoking out of Lexington.
And lastly, most recently, when news broke last week that he would declare for the NBA Draft and maintain his college eligibility, his camp pivoted and stated on record that no decision had been made. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, a decision had indeed been made and they were also communicating with NBA personnel stating he is not only going in the Draft but he also intends on staying there, which was reported by The Athletic on Thursday morning.
Sharpe has become a mystery wrapped in a conundrum because of the lack of opportunity for NBA teams to see him play on the floor and the perpetual mixed messaging off of it. It’s not entirely his fault but NBA organizations now will be left to collect and sort through every game they can find and every piece of credible intel they can gather – which hasn’t been easy to mine – in order to decide whether or not he is Worth risking their livelihoods over compared to players that they’ve been able to thoroughly vet.
Without question, Sharpe is a top five talent in this NBA Draft but NBA executives have concerns.
“We’ve known for a long time that this kid will be in the upcoming Draft,” said an anonymous NBA executive. “Everything he’s done since has hurt his perception. How do we trust a kid whose camp brazenly lies to every single person they come across? ”