As the Portland Trail Blazers Summer League team begins practice, many in the Blazers organization are getting their first live look at 2022 lottery winner Shaedon Sharpe.
The squad completed its first two training sessions on Saturday and Sunday.
So far, reviews of Sharpe’s skill level have been glowing. 57th overall draft pick Jabari Walker sees potential in his rookie teammate.
“I just thought, when I see him do some things, I’m like, ‘He’s going to be a problem,'” Walker said after Saturday’s opening practice session. “He is ready.”
Sophomore Pro Keon Johnson was also 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 believes the two will form a beautiful partnership on the pitch.
“He’s a freak athlete,” Johnson said after Sunday’s practice session. “He can score, but he can also defend. I can understand why we drafted him. I feel like we’re both similar in many different ways, but I think we’re both good for growing from each other.”
Not only did the practice weekends serve as teammates’ first glimpse of the Blazers’ new, award-winning rookie, but for Sharpe himself, they showed his first five-a-side action in about a year. The live run was “exciting,” but he told reporters the extended layoff got him most excited to compete in an official game with referees and fans later this week.
At just 19 and with the pressure of the seventh draft pick on his shoulders, Sharpe said he wasn’t overly concerned about the high expectations.
“I feel like some people are playing up some things,” Sharpe said. “But my whole job is to play basketball and win, so I’m not worried about that.”
Joining Sharpe and Walker this summer is a roster full of veteran young players who endured tough minutes against elite competition in the 2021-22 NBA season. Big 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 play with us, so they have a lot of in-house knowledge to just get going,” said Steve Hetzel, Portland Summer League head coach. “They already know what we say and what we install, so the level of execution is high. Our beginners are ready to go, so they applied what we taught them pretty easily too.”
Portland’s first game of the 2022 NBA Summer League in Las Vegas is Thursday, July 7 at 9 p.m. against the Detroit Pistons on ESPN.