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Does Shaedon Sharpe warrant a Pistons swing for the fences at 5?

Pistons general manager Troy Weaver cut his teeth on the AAU circuit and nurtured those relationships in his 16 years in the NBA that predated coming to Detroit to cull foundational knowledge of burgeoning elite talent before most of his peers were on to them.

He’ll have as much depth of knowledge of Shaedon Sharpe as anyone to judge the probability of various outcomes for the Canadian teen, who grew up just a few hours from Detroit in the southwestern Ontario city of London. That said, the variance of outcomes with Sharpe is almost certainly broader than for any other prospect in the thick of consideration at No. 5.

The Pistons finished the season with enough momentum to make it less likely that they’ll be picking in the top five again next season and beyond, so this could be Weaver’s last best chance to land an elite talent. Does that make it more or less likely that he’d be willing to swing for the fences on Sharpe? Stay tuned. Here’s a look at Sharpe:

FIRST-ROUND CANDIDATE: SHAEDON SHARPE

ID CARD: 6-foot-5¼ guard, Kentucky, 19 years old

DRAFT RANGE: Ranked 7th by The Athletic, 7th by ESPN.com, 4th by The Ringer, 5th by Bleacher Report, 5th by SI.com

SCOUTS LOVE: Sharpe is a central casting modern guard with electric athleticism that creates all the space he needs to operate one on one and get to jump shots he knocks down with a graceful ease. He’s comparable to Jalen Green from the 2021 draft in those respects. Because Sharpe reclassified very late in the game, didn’t enroll at Kentucky until January and didn’t play a single college game, the most meaningful basketball he has on videotape came on the EYBL circuit last summer and, in particular, the highly scouted Peach Jam tournament where he shined. That got Sharpe elevated to No. 1 prospect in the high school 2022 class, before his decision to reclassify and make him eligible for the 2022 NBA draft. There Sharpe showed a devastating pull-up jump shot and the overwhelming athleticism to finish efficiently at the rim. The ability to create his own shot is Sharpe’s greatest skill and one coveted by all NBA teams looking for ways to crack increasingly sophisticated NBA defenses. While scoring is at the heart of Sharpe’s appeal, in flashes he’s also shown some heady passing ability and an awareness of the benefits of playmaking for teammates.

SCOUTS WONDER: Seeing Sharpe stand out athletically against premier age-group competition gives personnel evaluators confidence that his athletic traits will place him at the far end of the bell curve on that important front even against the NBA field. But pretty much everything else is projection with Sharpe. How does he respond to big games? How does he function with teammates in stressful situations at the end of games in the balance? How does he function within the framework of team defense? There are countless cases of players being highly regarded before their first year of college basketball and then going from lottery candidate to outside the first round as the evidence mounts. For Sharpe to hit the upper end of expectations – the outcome that validates spending a high lottery pick on him – he’ll need to grow into a player not only with the talent but the temperament to serve as his team’s offensive bellwether either primarily or at least in consistent stretches on a routine basis. No one’s ever seen Sharpe fill that role in a meaningful setting.

NUMBER TO NOTE: 6-foot-11½ – That’s Sharpe’s wingspan, another in the series of entrancing qualities the Canadian teen brings to the table. No one really knows what Sharpe can become defensively – his elevation to elite prospect status was based solely on the sky-high offensive potential – but length like he possesses to go with the obvious lateral movement and explosive verticality give him every tool necessary to excel at that end, too.

MONEY QUOTE: “This kid, we have nothing but YouTube video to go on. I think you are just taking an absolute swing. … You’ve got to be patient and you better have a plan and everybody’s on board. You’re saying, he should have been the first pick in the draft, but we’re getting him at seven, we’re getting him at 11. There is just not a lot to go on. … The teams that are allowed to bring him in, it’s not going to be so much the workout. I think it’s going to be just getting to know the kid, see where his head is at.” – Anonymous Western Conference executive to David Aldridge of The Athletic

PISTONS FIT: As with anyone the Pistons consider or wind up drafting at No. 5, the presence of Cade Cunningham makes it relatively easy to make it work. Cunningham’s destiny as the primary playmaker for the Pistons for the next generation would ease Sharpe of that burden. Having Cunningham operating as the pick-and-roll ballhandler the majority of the time would set up Sharpe to use his superior athleticism to catch defenders on their heels when he attacks from the weak side. Sharpe’s length, quickness and athleticism would give the Pistons tremendous lineup flexibility. He could serve in two-guard lineups with Cunningham, guarding point guards, or in three-guard lineups defending any perimeter position.

BOTTOM LINE: Let’s bring it full circle. It goes back to Weaver and what he thinks about Sharpe. Sure, some of it involves Weaver’s risk tolerance. You don’t want to have little or nothing to show for a No. 5 pick three years down the road and most would tell you that Sharpe has a greater chance to land on that reality than other prospects who’ll be on the board at five. But Weaver has displayed a fearlessness in his two years on the job in making decisive moves. The fact he made so many moves in his first days once the transaction moratorium lifted in November 2020 underscores that fact. The more moves you make, the more chances you have to be wrong and invite the scrutiny that eventually puts job security at risk in the GM game. Weaver won’t hesitate to draft Sharpe if he trusts his instincts on appraising Sharpe. The question is whether Weaver can possibly feel he has enough to go on given the scant resume Sharpe carries when exercising something as valuable as the fifth pick.