Since the Portland Trail Blazers waved the white flag and
shut down Damian Lillard for the
remainder of the season, they have shifted their focus to
developing rookie Shaedon Sharpe and the rest of the young players
on their roster.
Lately, Sharpe has been playing significantly more minutes and
handling way more responsibilities than at any other point this
season. The 19-year-old still has a lot to learn, but he's making
the most of this opportunity.
On Wednesday, the Blazers had just seven players available as
they faced the Sacramento Kings, and Sharpe responded with his best
game of the season. With a chance to carry the scoring load, Sharpe
finished with 30 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists and 6 threes while
shooting 46.2% from three-point range in the losing effort.
"We take it personal," Sharpe said. "Us young dudes don't really
get the playing time that we want, so when we get an opportunity,
we go take it."
Over the last five games, Sharpe is averaging 23.8 points, 6.6
rebounds, 3.6 threes, 3.2 assists and a steal, while shooting 45.7%
from the field, 45.0% from three and 81.0% from the free-throw
line. This stretch is huge for Sharpe's confidence, and it gives
him something to build off of entering next season.
"Just getting more comfortable (in the NBA) and getting used to
the play style and how dudes like to play,” Sharpe said. “But I
feel like it all comes down to film. We do a lot of film (study)
behind the scenes, so I feel like it comes down to the film and
knowing what guys like to do and how they like to play.”
On the season, Sharpe has appeared in 75 games and has averaged
8.9 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.2 threes and 0.9 assists on
.474/.369/.707 shooting splits.
"He's seeing so many new things every single night,” Blazers
head coach Chauncey Billups said. “He's going to be fine. He learns
things so quickly. We'll go over (things) and watch film and talk
about what we need and, boom, right away he knows how to do it.
He's doing good."
Billups pointed out that Sharpe needs to get better at passing
and making reads, but he also acknowledged that those struggles are
to be expected for a raw rookie who's still a teenager.
This hands-on experience is important for Sharpe, who attended
the University of Kentucky but never suited up for the Wildcats.
Sharpe was the No. 3 high-school recruit in the nation and the fact
that he didn't play college basketball didn't scare off NBA teams,
as the Blazers selected him with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2022
“Shae has come in and it’s been a tough game for him to learn,
you know? He never really even had a chance to learn the college
game and then all of a sudden, boom, he’s thrust into learning the
NBA game,” Billups told BasketballNews earlier this month. “It’s a
lot. It’s a lot of things to study, a lot of things to watch, but
he has taken that task very seriously. Now, he’s starting to
understand what we want as a team and what his role is and what we
need from him every single night.
“He’s always going to have those ‘wow’ moments because that’s
just the type of beautiful athlete that he is. But it’s the simple
things that he’s really starting to pick up, and guys can start to
gain more and more trust in having a young guy out there.”
As Billups alluded to, Sharpe has had plenty of ridiculous dunks
throughout his rookie season. That’s one area where his lack of
experience hasn’t limited him, as he’s already one of the NBA's
While Sharpe is still a "blank canvas," as Billups puts it, this
stretch has allowed him to showcase different aspects of his skill
set. Given his upside and athleticism, it’s easy to see why the
Blazers fell in love with him during the pre-draft process. He
could be a special player if he realizes his full potential.
“He is up and down like a teenager usually is,” Billups
added earlier this
month. “He plays good sometimes, but sometimes he struggles with
our coverages, our concepts and just staying locked in long enough.
… That is something, if you’re a coach playing young players, that
I have to live with. But for the most part, overall, I think
Shaedon is coming along very nicely.”