Why Shaedon Sharpe makes the 2022 NBA draft more interesting for Detroit Pistons

Detroit Free Press

The 2022 NBA draft is, by most accounts, a three-player draft. Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren, Auburn’s Jabari Smith Jr. and Duke’s Paolo Banchero could each be  in pole position to hear his name announced first.

All three will be in the mix if the Detroit Pistons, tied with the Houston Rockets and Orlando Magic for a 14% chance at the No. 1 pick, win the lottery for the second year in a row.

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After those three names, there’s a drop-off. Purdue guard Jaden Ivey has top-four talent, and there are other players — including Arizona wing Bennedict Mathurin and Iowa forward Keegan Murray — who will appeal to the Pistons should they draft between fourth and seventh overall. That list also includes a talented newcomer to the draft pool who could challenge the current pecking order.

Shaedon Sharpe hasn’t played a college basketball game, and likely will not. But he’s already a projected top-10 lock in the 2022 draft and could be in the conversation to be drafted by the Pistons wherever their pick ends up.

Sharpe is a consensus five-star recruit and the top-ranked 2022 high school basketball player by ESPN, 247Sports and Rivals. The Canadian wing is 6 feet 6 with a 7-foot wingspan, is incredibly athletic and has all of the tools to become an offensive weapon in the NBA. In a draft that boasts high-end talent but lacks a singular, franchise-altering prospect like Anthony Davis or Zion Williamson, it’s clear why Sharpe is an intriguing option for lottery teams despite his complete lack of collegiate experience.

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Sharpe, who turns 19 on May 30, committed to Kentucky last September and enrolled for the second semester in January. His plan was to practice with Kentucky this spring and remain at the school through next season so that he could play. But last Thursday, he announced his plan to test the draft. He can maintain his college eligibility until June 1, but because his draft stock is so high, NBA teams are expecting he will forgo his college eligibility.

There are parallels between Sharpe and Pistons fourth-year wing Hamidou Diallo, a former uber-athletic five-star recruit who also enrolled at Kentucky a semester early. But Diallo played for Kentucky during the 2017-18 season before declaring for the draft, even though he would’ve been a likely first-round pick had he declared a year prior.

Sharpe is a possibility for the Pistons, but it comes down to two factors — where the Pistons end up drafting, and how well Sharpe tests at the NBA draft combine and performs during individual workouts. His high school resume is strong. NBA draft evaluators got a feel for his game at Nike Peach Jam last summer, and he averaged 22.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists while shooting 55.6% inside the arc and 36.1% from 3 through 12 games during the event. But high school production doesn’t always translate to the NBA.

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But it’s easy to see Sharpe’s fit with Detroit, a team hoping to make a leap next season after rebuilding. His athleticism, shot-making and defensive upside make him an ideal match not only with Cade Cunningham, who lived up to expectations as a go-to scorer, playmaker and leader as a rookie last season, but with the rest of the Pistons’ young core.

The lottery is May 17, and the draft is June 23. In three weeks, the Pistons will know where they will pick. A month later, they’ll make the pick. Sharpe’s draft stock could rise or fall from this point forward, but his presence makes a pivotal draft for Detroit much more intriguing.

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa.

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