Things are unusually quiet on the NBA Draft front. The college season is long over and the NBA Draft lottery is a painful two weeks away. So forgive me for being more than a little irrationally intrigued by Shaedon Sharpe, the No. 1 recruit in the 2022 class who decided to declare for the NBA Draft without ever playing a college game thanks to early high school graduation.
The Kentucky commit is an elite athlete, but little is known about how he can utilize those skills on the basketball court against elite competition.
So far now, all we have to go on is the work he can do inside a practice gym and the latest is a bit eye-popping. Sharpe reportedly (allegedly, unconfirmedly) showcased a vertical of 49 inches, which would be an NBA record. The No. 1 belongs to Michael Jordan — again, allegedly.
NBA draft prospect Shaedon Sharpe has a vertical of 49 inches.— Bradeaux (@BradeauxNBA) May 1, 2022
To put it in perspective how crazy that is, Micheal Jordan currently has the highest vertical leap in NBA history at 48 inches. pic.twitter.com/FYIARanBbG
This NBA Draft was headlined by three players who made an exciting top 3, but not without plenty of question marks. Jabari Smith Jr. is an elite shooter with little else to fall back on, Paolo Banchero is a score-first forward who might top out as very good but never great, and Chet Holmgren is a rail-thin 7-footer who can shoot and score inside, but questions remain about his ability to do it against the size, speed and athleticism of NBA competition.
Enter the aforementioned Sharpe. Could his elite physical profile, age and projection as an impact wing player lead him to supplant any of the above as a top-3 pick? Could Sharpe even make a case to go No. 1?
ESPN’s Jonathan Givony thinks it is a possibility. Depending on how much credence teams are willing to put on high school tape and in-person workouts.
Watched Shaedon Sharpe in a competitive one on one workout today. Combination of size, length, frame, fluidity, scoring instincts and defensive versatility are incredibly impressive. Looks like the No. 1 pick in the draft in this setting. Talent. pic.twitter.com/cezR0sPHOk— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) April 24, 2022
Does that mean he makes sense for the Detroit Pistons?
Troy Weaver has never backed away from talent, and he has taken a mix of players who it is clear were drafted with an eye toward long-term development — Killian Hayes and Saben Lee — and players who looked like they could step on the floor right away and contribute — Saddiq Bey. He has not really seemed to prioritize athleticism in his roster construction, and elite athleticism is definitely something the team lacks at the moment. Does that mean it isn’t really a part of Weaver’s calculus or does it mean it could be a priority add as he looks to continue remaking the roster in the years ahead?
Does the Cade Cunningham timeline come into the mix at all? Cunningham is just 20 years old, but he is already showing the ability to impact the game in myriad ways. That means if the team is able to surround him with talent, the Pistons could get much better in a relatively short time frame.
Does a 19-year-old fit within that framework? I would say yes. There is nothing about where the Pistons find themselves and Weaver that tells me he would discount anything about Sharpe as a prospect and a potential selection no matter where the Pistons find themselves in the NBA Draft.
Does that mean he would take Sharpe over a Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero or Jabari Smith Jr.? I wish I knew his draft board that well. But more good prospects to select from is nothing but a good thing. Now we just need that NBA Draft lottery to get a better sense of where Detroit will be selecting and if they’ll even have a shot at one of the draft’s top players.