By STEVEN VAUGHAN, 750 The Game
The Trail Blazers are caught in limbo……. again. They are 3.5 games out of 10th place in the Western Conference. But they also have the seventh-worst record in the NBA. In my mind there is no question: The Blazers need to lose as many games as possible and get the best chance to get the No. 1 pick in June’s NBA Draft (Victor Wembanyama). If you haven’t seen Wembanyama play. Check out some of these highlights of the 7-foot-5 center:
Still, the Blazers beat the Jazz on Wednesday night 127-115. The Blazers were underdogs and were without two of the team’s better players, Jerami Grant and Anfernee Simons. The night seemed perfectly set-up for a loss. I want the Blazers to lose every single game the rest of the season to get the most ping-pong balls in the NBA Draft Lottery. But I was OK with last night’s victory.
Answer: Shaedon Sharpe.
The high-flying rookie has shown flashes of being great, but has also played like a 19-year-old and made mistakes. Last night because of the injuries, Sharpe started and had his best game of his career. A career-high 24 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals, and hit four of his seven three-point field goals in 40 minutes of play.
This is important for the Trail Blazers. If the Blazers are to take the next step, Sharpe will be a part of it. He will either be the starting shooting guard on the team. Or he will be the main trade piece in a package that brings back a veteran star that fits next to Damian Lillard. I have been critical of head coach, Chauncey Billups, this season. But one thing he wasn’t doing was starting and playing Sharpe over veterans Matisse Thybulle and Cam Reddish after the Blazers acquired them at the trade deadline. Now that it appears the Blazers aren’t destined for the playoffs, Sharpe needs to be playing 30-35 minutes a night. He is the future. For that reason, I wasn’t upset with the victory last night over the Jazz. Sharpe thrived in the starting role, had some great plays and Portland won.
If the Blazers are to win games this season, I need to see Sharpe playing well and playing often. Beyond that, I need them to lose. The best chance for the Blazers contending in the next few seasons is the No. 1 overall pick. And if Sharpe gets some valuable experience right now, he will be better when the Blazers need him next season.
Follow Steven Vaughan on Twitter: @steven_von