Shaedon Sharpe is the big mystery box of the draft, as he was #1 RSCI in the 2022 high school class before re-classifying to spend last season on Kentucky’s bench. Now he is a top 10 prospect in this year’s draft, with limited information to discern his true value.
Here is the list of the last 19 #1 RSCI prospects coming out of high school.
LeBron and Dwight were obvious #1 overalls straight out of high school. Anthony Davis and Ben Simmons were obvious #1 overalls after a year of college. Andrew Wiggins, Greg Oden, and Cade Cunningham were not obvious #1 choices after a year of college, but wrongfully went #1 because of all of their RSCI hype.
Everybody else went #2 or later, including a high number of mediocre careers in the high lottery. Bagley and Wiseman were both major mistakes at #2 overall, with Wiseman sharing a commonality with Sharpe of low information. He had 3 good games in college and then seemed eager to not play anymore to preserve the draft hype he had attained. This worked to perfection, as he tricked the Warriors into drafting him over LaMelo Ball among other more capable prospects on the board.
The problem with low information is that it gives an aura of infinite upside, but in reality is more indicative of a weak median outcome. The draft is hard enough to predict working with full seasons of high major NCAA play, but if we are working with AAU data it is far more difficult. This is why top RSCI’s are so boom or bust– high school scouts can discern if somebody is in a good mold, but being able to tell if they are NBA caliber is much more difficult for 16 and 17 year olds.
Let’s talk about long armed SG’s
And if there is one player on this list that Sharpe stylistically compare to, it is Shabazz Muhammad. They have similar dimensions as long armed SG’s with 6’11 wingspans (Muhammad is an inch taller at 6’6 vs 6’5), and the strength of both players is being able to get buckets without turning it over. Muhammad did this capably in the NBA, but he was too selfish and one dimensional and fizzled out of the league after 5 underwhelming seasons.
Granted, Muhammad somewhat tricked RSCI by being secretly a year older than listed. But Sharpe is no spring chicken himself, as he was only 6 months older relative to his HS class where he was ranked #1. It is important to be leery of older prospects beating up on high school opposition that may happen to be less developed.
Long armed guards is a fairly common mold for draft disappointment among high RSCI’s. Xavier Henry (#6 RSCI) and went 12th in the draft after shooting 41.8% 3P and 78.3% FT for Kansas, and then completely forgot how to shoot in the NBA and badly busted. James Young (#9 RSCI) showed promise due to his youth and length but failed in the NBA due to lack of maturity.
Markelle Fultz is a famous example of a #1 pick SG who was heavily dependent on his shooting but only made 64.9% FT in NCAA. Sharpe only made 63.5% FT (33/52) in EYBL, so there is good reason to worry he could have similar issues as he is the same age as Fultz on draft night in spite of moving a class up and not playing and did not show nearly the same PG skills in high school.
Romeo Langford, Rashad McCants, and Lonnie Walker are a few other examples of long armed scorers who flopped in the NBA.
The last hit was on Anthony Edwards, who was outlier young for his class. He was a few months younger than Sharpe even after Sharpe reclassified. He also has outlier positive energy, whereas Sharpe seems to have a terrible attitude based on interviews floating around.
And prior to Edwards it is tough to find a top 20 RSCI SG with long arms hitting. Lance Stephenson had a couple of decent years, but was not consistent enough to be a major draft prize. Gerald Henderson did not bust but never became better than mediocre. James Harden and Tyreke Evans are moreso PG’s and not the same mold. The best example of a win may be Jason Richardson who was ranked #14 RSCI all the way back in 1999.
Ultimately this mold is dense with busts, and every once in a blue moon you get a Jason Richardson who never made an all-star game or an Anthony Edwards who seems on track to become an all-star, but his career is still TBD. If we go back a few years further to the days before RSCI there are more inspiring examples such as Kobe Bryant and Vince Carter, but anybody who has been chasing one of those guys over the past 20+ drafts has experienced mostly pain and frustration.
Where Are Shaedon Odds of Success?
This is difficult to say, as we have not gained much information to work with this draft process. But the Sacramento Kings did share this interview clip:
This might be the worst pre-draft interview clip I have ever seen. First, he does not seem to know a single player on the Sacramento Kings, including De’Aaron Fox who played for the same school and coach as Sharpe.
Most star players are big fans of the NBA entering the league, but it seems that Sharpe instead believes that the NBA should be a big fan of him. In spite of his highest level of basketball played being the EYBL Peach Jam, he believes he can come in and give proven NBA players like De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis “their little shine” by finding them when they are open.
This is a wild intersection of bad awareness and gross arrogance, as if he is above the NBA without even proving that he can be a competent college basketball player.
Typically focusing too much on interviews over on court performance is going to lead to more bad opinions than good ones, but there is no on court performance for Sharpe to analyze. If the only bit of information that Sharpe provides this draft process is a transparently awful attitude, why should that be taken lightly when there is close to zero information suggesting that he will be a useful NBA player.
Even without this video it seemed most likely that he would be a Shabazz Muhammad, James Young, Romeo Langford, or Xavier Henry type with just a tiny shred of hope that he would be Kobe Bryant or Vince Carter.
But while Sharpe is a good athlete, he is not a generational athlete like Kobe or Vince and needs to develop perfectly to achieve that level of greatness. This video should disqualify him from that, as those guys entered the league with far more humble mentalities. This pre-rookie video from Kobe conveys the opposite mentality of having studied all of the great NBA players and being excited to learn from them.
So now we are hoping for something more like Jason Richardson, which is a nice payoff on a mid-lottery pick but far from franchise changing, and even still it is difficult to imagine J-Rich having such a bad attitude. But for the sake of argument, let’s say that Sharpe’s distribution of NBA outcomes is something like
10% Jason Richardson
10% Lance Stephenson
Is that really worth a lottery pick? It is not a particularly exciting distribution of outcomes, and 10% odds of becoming J-Rich may be too generous for Sharpe.
Where Does Sharpe fit in 2022 Class?
This year is full of SG’s in a similar mold to compare Sharpe to, so let’s run through them.
Bennedict Mathurin is an inch taller at 6’6 with 2.5″ less length at 6’9, but is the better athlete, more proven shooter, and more proven basketball player having won Pac-12 player of the year for Arizona this past season. Sharpe is only 11 months younger– if he transferred to Arizona to play next season, it is unlikely that he would win 2022-23 Pac-12 player of the year. Sharpe has clearly inferior median outcome to Mathurin without any reason to believe in more upside.
My first impression was that Sharpe was a better gamble than Jaden Ivey who showed myriad warts on the floor for Purdue. But Ivey nevertheless showed some baseline competence offensively that Sharpe may have not matched, and there is no strong reason to expect Sharpe to be any less bad on defense. Further, Ivey is the clearly more explosive athlete and seems to be much more coachable than Sharpe. For all of my doubts about Ivey and his bust risk, he seems clearly above Sharpe.
AJ Griffin is another SG worth questioning given his reliance on shooting with unorthodox shooting mechanics. But he still has a bigger sample of better shooting numbers than Sharpe, he has proven to be a useful NCAA player who was efficient and avoided turnovers, and he is 0.5 to 1″ taller and longer. He is also 3 months younger than Sharpe. Sharpe is the better athlete, but everything else points toward AJ being the better value proposition.
Malaki Branham has similar dimensions with 1.5″ less length, and proved to be a competent player for Ohio State with an intriguing shooting making 41.6% 3P 83.3% FT. He still likes the mid-range a bit too much and needs to stretch his range to NBA 3, but he nevertheless has more evidence suggesting he can shoot than Sharpe does. And they have the same birth month, even if Sharpe is a little bit longer and a bit more athletic, there is not a clear reason to value him higher.
Johnny Davis and Ochai Agbaji are the tougher comparisons as they have more transparent offensive limitations and lower upside, but they likely do have better median outcomes than Sharpe. You could debate whether it is worth gambling on Sharpe’s upside when the odds of it hitting since fairly bad, but it is safer to instead just not draft any of these guys since they are all unlikely to provide any sort of compelling payoff in the lottery.
It’s difficult to rank Sharpe with precision based on the low information. It seems like a fairly safe assumption that he is not going to be useful, but there is still enough intrigue to take a punt on him at some point in case it works out. But even in late round 1 or early round 2 I would rather take a high IQ non-athlete like Trevor Keels over a dunce like Sharpe.
Median vs Upside
Everybody is obsessed with upside in the draft, and for good reason. Most of the value of a prospect comes in the scenarios where he hits his upside and provides a major payoff to his drafting team.
But upside is heavily tied to median. Let’s say that hypothetically, Bennedict Mathurin and Shaedon Sharpe have similar upside scenarios if they max out their development. But let’s also say that Sharpe has a 50% chance of being a significantly worse shooter, 50% odds of translating to NCAA play poorly, and 50% odds of underwhelming development due to his bad attitude. Odds are that 7/8 times, one of those things will undercut his value and make him at least a notch less good than Mathurin.
So if we believe that Mathurin is going to be an all-star 15% of the time, that means that Sharpe will be the same all-star less than 2% of the time. Who cares about theoretical upside if it does not hit?
It is already a difficult parlay for most players with solid information to hit their upside, but for a mystery box like Sharpe the parlay requires additional legs that make it even further unlikely and make the median bad, which places a major hit on the expected value of their draft rights.
Perhaps these are harsh estimates on Sharpe’s odds of falling short, but even if we say he has 30% odds of disappointing in each category, he is still just 34% to match Mathurin overall. That is really bad relative to a guy that he is currently mocked just one slot behind.
Ultimately it is difficult to rank Sharpe with precision, but the safest thing to do is to simply not draft him. It’s a pure degen variance fest praying that he hits his mysterious upside when there is not much information suggesting that he is likely to hit. You are basically playing a parlay with multiple legs that are unlikely to hit and your reward is a fringe all-star at best.
The smart move is to let somebody else gamble on the mystery box and end up with tickets to a crappy comedy club.