As the Portland Trail Blazers Summer League team begins practice, many in the Blazers organization are getting their first live look at 2022 lottery pick Shaedon Sharpe.
The squad had its first two practice sessions on Saturday and Sunday.
So far, the reviews of Sharpe’s skill level have been glowing. 57th overall draft pick Jabari Walker sees the potential in his fellow rookie teammate.
“I was just thinking, when I see him do some things I’m like ‘He’s going to be a problem.’” said Walker after Saturday’s opening practice. “He’s ready.”
Second-year pro Keon Johnson also was on the practice floor this weekend. The 21st overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft came to Portland last February in the trade that sent Robert Covington and Norman Powell out of town. A high-flying athlete like Sharpe, Johnson is impressed with the rookie’s versatility and thinks the two will form a nice partnership on the court.
“He’s a freak athlete,” said Johnson following Sunday’s practice. “He can score but he can also defend. I can see why we drafted him. I feel like we’re both similar in a lot of different ways but I think we’re both good to grow off of each other.”
Not only did the weekend practices serve as a first look for teammates at the Blazers new prized rookie, but for Sharpe himself, they showcased his first five-on-five action in about a year. The live run was “exciting,” but he told reporters the extended layoff has him most excited to compete later this week in an official game with refs and fans.
At just 19 and the pressure of the 7th overall draft pick weighing on his shoulders, Sharpe said he isn’t too concerned with the lofty expectations.
“I feel like some people hype some things up,” Sharpe said. “But my whole job is to go play basketball and win, so I’m not really worried about that.”
Complementing Sharpe and Walker this summer is a roster stacked with experienced young players who saw heavy minutes against elite competition during the 2021-22 NBA season. Familiar names like Trendon Watford, Johnson, Greg Brown III, Brandon Williams, and Didi Louzada should make Portland a competitive team this July.
“We have a good group of core players that are going to be playing with us, so they have a lot of internal knowledge to just hit the floor running,” said Portland summer league head coach Steve Hetzel. “What we say and what we install, they already know, so the execution level is high. Our rookies, they’re ready to go, so they applied what we taught pretty easily as well.”
Portland’s first game of the 2022 NBA Summer League in Las Vegas will take place at 9 PM Thursday, July 7 against the Detroit Pistons on ESPN.