Over the past two weeks, the Portland Trail Blazers have employed a series of trades, signings and draft picks to rebuild their roster in preparation for the 2022-23 NBA season. If you haven’t been paying close attention, you can be forgiven for missing some details. Even if so, it’s time to take a deep breath, recap, and reset.
Over the July 4th holiday weekend, we’ll break down Portland’s moves so far this summer, examine each one in detail, update you, and decipher the significance of each transaction.
In this article, we look at a pair of semi-surprising picks, 2022 NBA Draft picks Shaedon Sharpe and Jabari Walker.
The transaction: The Blazers draft high school graduate and Kentucky roster orbiter Shaedon Sharpe with the seventh overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, then select Colorado Buffaloes forward Jabari Walker with the 57th pick. th general selection.
What it costs: Those two draft picks. Portland owned every single one headed for the draft.
NBA reaction: Across the board about Sharpe, depending on pre-existing opinions about him. Some wonder if he is the next incarnation of the superstar shooting guard, a throwback to the ’90s and 2000s. Others think the hype is overblown.
No one overreacted to Walker’s selection, though experts on the Blazer’s Edge staff consider him a good pick.
The stats: None evident yet.
What Portland Won
Sharpe’s potential is in the eye of the beholder. We know he’s athletic and could become an offensive powerhouse. He hasn’t played against NBA competition, or anything like that. He is, in essence, a high school recruit. Where will Jermaine O’Neal-Travis Outlaw-Kwame Brown fall on the scale? Portland may have earned a future All-Star. They may also have signed up for a long and frustrating learning curve with a hazy ending.
Sharpe will have a couple of advantages with the Blazers. They just did something similar with Anfernee Simons. It has developed quite well. Simons and, to a lesser extent, Damian Lillard, provide as good a roster as you could want for a shooting shooting guard. His talent also gives Sharpe time to develop. Not that he has to save the franchise, at least not now.
Note also that the seventh picks are speculative in nature. You expect a player to contribute when you pick at that level, but there’s no guarantee at what juncture, or in what capacity, that will happen. It’s not uncommon for seventh picks to fade into obscurity. If the Blazers think Sharpe has a solid shot at stardom, they actually used a pretty reasonable asset to draft him.
The question at hand isn’t whether the seventh pick could have been used to get a better 2022 Draft Class player than Sharpe, it’s whether the pick could have given the Blazers more in the trade, given the NBA’s economy and their needs. current. Stripping away the potential business implications, few people would argue with Sharpe’s selection, even if it’s a scope.
The Blazers went a bit off course with the Sharpe pick. Most analysts expected them to use that asset to follow up on their summer commitment to get veterans help for Lillard, expressed through other acquisitions.
They were not going to pass up that opportunity for any player. One gets the feeling that they had Sharpe on target if he was still available in seventh place. Clearly, in assessing him, his potential future outweighs any help they could reasonably have gotten from that pick in the trade. Given that the speculative names included OG Anunoby (with another player going to Toronto from Portland) and John Collins, we can infer that the Blazers think highly of Sharpe.
However, all the teams that select the seventh overall in the draft think highly of the players they draft. That doesn’t guarantee that Sharpe will work.
Sharpe is scheduled to play a position that is filled by Simons and Josh Hart ahead of him, with Keon Johnson at his side. Shooting guard is the busiest position on the list. The story isn’t any better if he slides to the wing. First of all, can he defend that position? Second, can he defend him any better than Hart, Nassir Little and the newly acquired Gary Payton II?
There is more to this story than meets the eye. The Blazers haven’t given any indication that they’re looking to trade someone ahead or ahead of Sharpe in the rotation. That may mean they anticipate it will take a couple of years to develop. That’s fine… expected, even. But he also calls this a move for the future rather than the present.
The Blazers are smart about keeping their talent pool moving. It’s one of the areas that stalled under former President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey. The danger is that they spend a couple of years developing Sharpe, then realize he’s not all that, and stay where they started, only two years later. Another danger: Sharpe IS all of that, but he can’t develop because of a lack of minutes and shots in front of him, as Portland’s priorities are set on winning now rather than building the next iteration.
If Sharpe is as good as his defenders hope, he may be able to turn the franchise around, whether they want to go or not. It’s not impossible to imagine his star rising on the Lillard stages, and the two working together to become the Next Great Duo. No one knows where that leaves Simons, Hart and Johnson, but if the Blazers think Sharpe can do it, they did absolutely the right thing by executing and keeping this pick.
Sharpe could also become part of the next generation with Simons and company if Lillard does eventually move on. In that way, he provides temporary flexibility that a veteran acquisition couldn’t. That he does it on a rookie-scale contract should also free up financial wiggle room that wouldn’t be present with Collins, Anunoby or their ilk.
For those reasons, this was a sensible move IF Sharpe turns out well. Otherwise, the Blazers will see this as a potentially wasted opportunity, especially if they get stuck in the first or second round of the playoffs, as has been typical for most of Lillard’s tenure.
PD Drafted 57th, Jabari Walker wouldn’t normally be considered a rotation player. If he makes the team and sees the court, that’s enough justification to wear it. If not, there is no harm.
Until next time
Keeping a veteran for many reasons…but which ones apply?