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By Thomas Gessner
Before the NBA draft, I discussed former Duke basketball player Jalen Johnson, evaluating his ability and potential. Johnson had varied projections, but the Atlanta Hawks ended up selecting the forward with the 20th pick. None of this is surprising considering Johnson’s issues as a half court player, but what was surprising about the draft for North Carolina basketball fans was that before the end of the first round, the Phoenix Suns selected UNC Chapel Hill’s Day’ron Sharpe with the 29th pick in the NBA draft, a pick that they traded to the Brooklyn Nets. Unlike Johnson, who many analysts expected to be a first round draft pick, the expectation for Sharpe was that teams would wait until the second round to select the nineteen year-old big man from Greenville, North Carolina.
Sharpe’s jump into the first round has been associated with two developments: his weight loss and pre-draft workouts. Sharpe apparently lost twenty pounds and during a workout in LA was attempting and making threes consistently with a jump shot that fans seldom saw during his time in Chapel Hill. Of course basketball players making threes during practices, workouts, or shootarounds does not always translate onto the court during a game, but it is better than seeing a player refuse to attempt difficult shots in a risk-free environment, and for a player like Day’ron, it represents his hustle and commitment, which his weight change also showed teams and scouts. Even for a six-foot eleven, 260-pound man, twenty pounds is still significant and is representative of someone’s desire to succeed in the league. Less weight for a player like Sharpe could mean increased mobility and speed, a better vertical, and the ability to participate in offensive plays that require a lot of movement.
Since I covered a “player like Sharpe”, Day’ron Sharpe’s play style should be mentioned. He is viewed as a “rim runner”, or a player whose primary goal is to dunk the ball in transition or off of screens and pick and rolls, opening up the offensive potential for a team. A rim runner forces defenses to attempt to guard the paint, and that weakened perimeter defense can create open looks for shooters. On the defensive end, Sharpe is bringing great rebounding and hustle. During his time at UNC, Sharpe averaged 7.6 rebounds in only nineteen minutes of play, and a staggering 43 percent of those were offensive rebounds, which are integral for creating second-chance opportunities for a team. To be completely fair, Sharpe was playing for a Chapel Hill team that shot the ball very poorly, and that can inflate those stats, as well as him occasionally grabbing his own miss. All in all, Day’ron Sharpe’s size and build, along with his strength and hustle, helps create rebounds, and that leads to extra points.
Every team wants a player that can fit this role for a rookie contract, and it makes sense that the Brooklyn Nets traded for him, and Sharpe is lucky to be on the Nets of all teams. The Brooklyn Nets led the league with the greatest offensive rating in the history of the sport, and a lot of that could be attributed to the white-hot three point shooting. With deadeye shooters Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Kevin Durant, and Joe Harris, the Nets shot 39 percent from three on over 36 attempts per game. At first glance it might seem like Sharpe and the Nets are contradictory since Sharpe is a paint player, but this style of offense opens up great opportunities for a player with his skillset, as opposing teams have to put so much effort into guarding shooters that it leaves the paint open for dunks and rebounds. Just look at Nic Claxton, a player with a similar set of skills and abilities as Sharpe, who was able to score with ease and play good help-side defense to help create some winning basketball.
Sharpe sounds like a great prospect and a league-ready player based on this analysis, but it would be foolish to say he is a finished product that should be starting games right now. He still needs to improve his athleticism for the fast-paced offense the Nets run, and he has got to work on finishing at the rim, only scoring a little more than half the time on his shot attempts. Sharpe’s biggest weakness has not even been brought up yet: that being his abysmal free throw shooting, making barely half of his free throws. That type of shooting makes NBA players a liability and can limit their minutes. All in all, Sharpe could be a very productive player considering the opportunity he has to be a part of a championship contending team that is favored to win it all this upcoming season. As a player from a North Carolina town and a North Carolina school, I am positive he can make it happen. ●
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