Sharpe’s eye-opening athleticism is subsidized by fine size for a shooting guard. The former Kentucky guard never played a minute for the ‘Cats, but maintained his reputation prior to entering the 2022 NBA Draft.
The former No. 1 overall recruit in the class of 2021 averaged nearly 22 points per game for UPlay Canada in the 2021 Nike EBYL last summer. Sharpe reclassified from the 2022 recruiting class prior to signing and then redshirting with the Wildcats in 2021.
The Trail Blazers recently re-signed Anfernee Simons to a four-year deal and this makes the drafting of Sharpe more significant. If he can work his way into the backcourt rotation for the team, then it only adds to the team’s scoring capability in its second rotation. Scoring will be important after losing SF-SF Joe Ingles in free agency to the Milwaukee Bucks this offseason. Ingles never played for the Trail Blazers after injuring his knee last season.
Texas forward Greg Brown III, once a five-star recruit from the same state, earned his keep during a one-year run at the school. A 24-game starter in 2020-21, Brown averaged over nine points and grabbed six rebounds per game. His high-flying antics date back to his time playing with Detroit Pistons 2021 number one overall draft pick Cade Cunningham as a member of the Texas Titans AAU squad in 2019.
Brown III actually has some wing capability and his movement complements rare explosiveness and bounce off the floor. The former Texas Gatorade Player of the Year went under 11 seconds (10.98) in the lane agility and posted a 33 1/2″ standing vertical jump at the 2021 NBA Combine.
Jamal Murray and Gary Harris will start in the backcourt for the Nuggets next season but Malik Beasley is the only true guard left under contract. Will Barton provided a spark off the bench and could come back next season but he will be a coveted free agent. If the Nuggets can’t re-sign Barton, look for them to add another guard who can handle the ball and score. With the 14th pick in the draft, Denver could look west to Oregon and target combo guard Troy Brown. Brown is 6’7” and finished the season with 11 points , six rebounds and three assists per game. Brown can play everything from point guard to forward and could in time be an Andre Iguodala-type player.
The Nuggets roster is filled with bigger forwards like Paul Milsap, Trey Lyles, Kenneth Faried and Darrell Arthur but Wilson Chandler is the only “wing” on the team. Denver could use the 43rd overall pick on a wing if they decide to go with a guard at No. 14. If the Nuggets target a wing in the second round, Texas Arlington’s Kevin Hervey could be intriguing. Hervey averaged 20 points per game and eight rebounds a night on 33 percent three-point shooting last year for the UTA Mavericks. Hervey (6’9, 230) moves well for his size and should translate well to small forward in the NBA.
Cap space: -7 million, 107 million
Free agents: Devin Harris, Will Barton, Richard Jefferson
Jeff Teague, Jimmy Butler, Andrew Wiggins and Tyus Jones lead an experienced backcourt while Gorgui Dieng and Karl Anthony-Towns are the foundation pieces in the frontcourt. Minnesota lacks a true small forward/ wing player. Butler and Wiggins can alternate minutes at small forward but the Timberwolves could stand to add another wing for depth. Minnesota has the 20th pick in the draft and Boston College’s Jerome Robinson is a prospect to watch. Robinson, 6-foot-5, is a sharp shooting guard who would allow Minnesota to move Butler/ Wiggins to the small forward position. Robinson shot 48 percent from the field and averaged 20 points last season. Robinson’s silky shooting and lean frame could remind fans of Jamal Crawford.
Shabazz Napier served as the primary backup point guard last season but struggled in the opening round against the Pelicans. For the season, Napier averaged eight points per game and two assists on twenty minutes of action. This season, Napier along with Pat Connaughton are free agents. Portland has the 24th pick in the draft and could use that pick to bring in some depth behind Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. USC’s De’Anthony Melton is a do it all combo guard at 6-foot-4. Melton has the tools to be an elite defender but his offense could use some seasoning. Melton could come in immediately and play alongside either Lillard and McCollum and give them a breather against the opposing team’s best scoring guard.
Big men Ed Davis and Jusuf Nurkic are free agents. Nurkic, 23 years old, has played his best basketball over the last two seasons, averaging nearly 15 points and 10 rebounds in both seasons. Portland could still use their 24th pick to bring in another defensive minded and athletic big man. Louisville’s Ray Spalding is raw but is 6-foot-10 and has a 7’6” wingspan. Spalding’s game translates to that of a stretch four and could complement the Trail Blazers, who lack an athletic big man.
Cap space: -13 million, 113 million
Free agents: Ed Davis, Jusuf Nurkic, Shabazz Napier, Wade Baldwin, Pat Connaughton
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder broke the bank to bring in Paul George and Carmelo Anthony last season. George will probably explore other options next season and Anthony’s production in 2017 doesn’t warrant his $27 million price tag. Oklahoma City will be in search for an athletic wing as Corey Brewer is set to hit free agency. The Thunder don’t have a first round pick but do have the 53rd and 57th overall picks. TCU’s Kenrich Williams, 6-foot-7, is a name to watch. Williams is 24 years old but that could work to his advantage. Oklahoma City has enough pieces to win now and his game is developed for a rookie. Williams averaged 13 points per game, nine rebounds and shot 39 percent from three last season.
Backup point guard
Raymond Felton will be 34 years old by the start of next season and is a free agent. The Thunder could look for a more athletic point guard to backup Russell Westbrook if Felton chooses to leave. Kansas’ Malik Newman is a 6-foot-4 combo guard with elite athleticism. Newman will have to work on his ball handling but he has shown before he has the ability to share the ball with talented teammates and could fit well alongside a star studded crew in OKC.
Cap space: -36 million, 136 million
Free agents: Nick Collison, Raymond Felton, Josh Huestis, Jerami Grant, Corey Brewer
Raul Neto and Dante Exum are free agents and Ricky Rubio will be a year from now. Utah could use their 21st pick to bring in another point guard to complement Donovan Mitchell long term. Duke’s Trevon Duval is 6-foot-3 and has a 7’0” wingspan. Duval is athletic and can handle the lead ball handling responsibilities. Duval’s size will allow him to defend either guard position. Alongside Mitchell, Duval will have a chance to defer offensively until he develops his offensive game, most notably his jump shot.
Cap space: -25 million, 125 million
Free agents: Derrick Favors, Dante Exum, Raul Neto, David Stockton
*The 2018-2019 NBA salary cap sits at $101 million and the luxury tax sits at $123 million.
Player stats are courtesy of ESPN.com.
Financial outlook is courtesy of Spotrac.com.
–By: Troy Jefferson, DraftNasty Staff reports, Follow him @troy_jefferson on twitter.
What makes this player NASTY….(Strengths): Athletic bloodlines. High basketball IQ. Floor speed. Ball-handling. Pushes the basketball end-to-end. On-court vision. Excellent passer. Creates easy transition opportunities for teammates. Makes deft overhead passes to cutters going to the basket. Able to find cutters with dime chest passes in half-court sets (Florida ’16). Sets up the screener when the team runs its two-man game at the top of the key. Excellent rebounder on both ends of the floor. Times offensive rebounds and puts it back on the floor straight off the bounce. Led the NCAA in double-doubles as a freshman. Lengthy arms correct plenty of his mistakes on defensive end of the floor. He will be able to operate versus guards on the switch as he moves up to the NBA (vs. Ulis, Kentucky ’16). He’s shown enough physicality to use his standing reach and will absorb the contact vs. low post scoring threats near the block (Lee, Kentucky ’16). When backing down defenders on the right block, he’ll use subtle pump fakes to get them off their feet (Poythress, Kentucky ’15); and he has soft touch on his fallaway jumper from 8-to-10 feet facing the basket. When backing down opponents, he uses his right elbow to propel himself off of one leg going left and will hang in the air with the floater facing the rim. Pivots and spins against pressure with an ease of movement that belies his age. Uses his off-hand (right) well to finish at the hoop. Left-handed dribbler who can finish in the paint versus the trees. Hand-eye coordination is solid when catching alley-oops from mid-court or even just inside the half-court line. As he attacks defenders moving forward he will use crossover (COD) dribbles to move them off their spots. Did a fine job of attacking Marquette’s Henry Ellenson off the dribble and then used his running right-handed floater over the top of him. Contains the ability to split double teams and can finish at the cup (South Alabama ’15).
Weaknesses: Does not shoot the basketball well from depth. Can he extend an NBA defense? Teams gave him an opportunity all season long to show that he could hit the open three-pointer and he turned it down (Marquette ’15). Passivity displayed itself at times in the Oklahoma game when he would defer quite a bit until a run late in the game. Didn’t put the nail in the coffin when the team had a big second half lead. Reluctant three-point shooter (attempted three 3-point shots all season). Took repetitions off on the defensive end in school. Fails to slide his feet consistently with knee bend (Kentucky ’16). Six games with six or more turnovers. Fouled out of four games as a freshman and had four or more fouls in 12 games. Disappeared for games on the offensive end (NC State ’15, Texas A&M ’16).
Dad, Dave, played professional basketball in Europe and Australia and wore the same number as Ben (No. 25)
Simmons played the forward position in Rugby while growing up
Went on to attend Montverde Academy (Fla.) and won three national championships while there
Godfather, David Patrick, was an assistant coach at LSU
Brother, Liam, is an assistant coach at Southwest Baptist College (Mo.)
43 points, 14 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 blocked shots and 5 steals vs. North Florida on 12/2/15
21 points (9-of-11 FT), 20 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, and 3 TOs vs. Marquette in 2015
36 points, 14 rebounds and 4 assists vs. Vanderbilt on 1/2/16
22 points, 14 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals vs. Missouri on 3/1/16
22 double-doubles in 2015-16 to lead the nation
2015-16 (USA Today National Freshman of the Year, 1st Team All-SEC, Sporting News National Freshman of the Year, SEC Freshman of the Year): 34.9 MPG, 19.2 PPG, 56% FG, 33.3% 3-PT, 67% FT, 11.8 RPG, 4.8 APG, 2 SPG, 3.4 TPG
Time to get NASTY….(Our Summary): He could become the first number one overall pick to not play in the NCAA Tournament since Mychal Thompson (1978-Portland Trail Blazers). With that said, the competitiveness factor should not be considered because the team didn’t make the tournament or due to his decision not to workout at the NBA combine. The most concerning part of his game may be between the ears. Simmons has not been shy about telling his team that: 1) he wouldn’t play in the NIT, and 2) that he wasn’t available to workout for certain NBA teams. For a player who didn’t always assert himself during school, there are questions left for NBA teams regardless of his unique combination of ball-handling, court vision and rebounding skill.