I am amazed at the number of people who have grilled Joe Dumars for selecting Walter Sharpe with the 32nd pick in the NBA Draft. Granted, most of them are of the ignorant variety. I have yet to see a scathing review of the Sharpe-pick from a journalist, local or national. Still, the recriminations were so loud that you’d think Bill Davidson just announced he was moving the team to Tennessee. Apparently, Joe Dumars hasn’t earned the benefit of the doubt from the locals despite successful pick after successful pick.
I have to admit it I was initially pulling for the Pistons to take Bill Walker at #29. When the name, “DJ White” popped up, I was left in a stunned silence. There was only one player who I didn’t want the Pistons to take and that was D.J. White. Five picks later when the Pistons traded for the 34th pick, hope was renewed. I was standing in front of my TV begging for Bill Walker. When the name, “Walter Sharpe” came up on the screen, I felt like I had my spine ripped out by Sub-Zero. I watch enough college basketball to know at least a little about most American draft prospects. I had never even heard of Walter Sharpe. As far as I knew, the only player from UAB worth knowing was Robert Vaden.
While my initial hopes were dashed, my affinity towards Joe’s actions during the draft has grown considerably. I think he made a great decision to trade out of the First Round where money isn’t guaranteed. He admitted after the draft that he liked Bill Walker a lot but explained that Walker was not drafted because he said he wouldn’t be willing to play overseas next season. The Pistons don’t have roster-room for two draft picks to make the team. I would think Walker had a high enough ceiling that Joe would’ve made room fro him (i.e. the Celtics) but I can understand his reasoning. Plus, how bad would you want a guy who wasn’t willing to do what was necessary to play for your organization? Walker has a lot of talent but answering “no” would be a bit of a turnoff and I’m sure it was for Joe. Those who were clamoring for Chris Douglas-Roberts probably had a little too much of the hometown bias going on. CDR is an awkward player without a position. He does one thing well and that’s “play in transition.” Joe D didn’t miss out on anything by passing on him. However, none of that really matters. Douglas-Roberts refused to work out for the Pistons which ended up being a terrible decision on his part and potentially a great decision for the Pistons since it may have led them to Sharpe.
Since, the “Walter Sharpe” pick has been blasted by virtually everyone with a pulse in Metro Detroit, I think it’s time to dispel the notion that Sharpe is a bum. As I mentioned before, I watch quite a bit of college basketball. I’ve seen D.J. White play for four years. I’ve seen him play enough to know that he is too slow and lacks the athleticism necessary to be a force in the NBA. He will probably bounce around the league as a bench player but it’s unlikely he’ll amount to anything more than Malik Rose. When the Pistons initially drafted White, I felt I had enough background information to be unsatisfied with the pick. However, I don’t think there are 50 people in the entire state of Michigan who had enough background information on Walter Sharpe to justify the unilateral lambasting that has spread across the state. Nobody knows anything about Sharpe. All anyone knows it that they don’t know anything. Personally, in the event that I don’t know anything about something, my first inclination is to find out everything I can. That’s what everyone in Detroit should be doing.
Joe D talked glowingly about Sharpe after the draft. He sounded like he just pulled a fast one on the rest of the league. He clearly did his due diligence. Sharpe is a legitimate prospect. In fact, I’m convinced that he was the best possible pick at #32 in terms of “ceiling”. According to RealGM, “Sharpe is a great athlete who has the skills to play the game like a much smaller player. He can shoot the outside shot, has a good handle, and possesses great agility in the post. He is decidedly quick-footed and is an awesome finisher at the rim. Sharpe has a nice set of skills at the mid-post and could excel here especially well.” After reading that, my only question is, what can’t he do? The Pistons got a player in the same mold—and with as much upside—as Amir Johnson. Nobody knew who Amir Johnson was when Joe D picked him and that didn’t stop him from developing into a high-potential player. Sharpe has always been rated highly as a basketball player. When he came out of high school in 2004, he was rated in the top 45 in the country.
Sharpe initially committed to Mississippi St. before off-court problems ended his Bulldog-career. He transferred to UAB and managed to play just 12 games in 2007-08. Sharpe is a big dude. He’s 6’9 and 245 lbs. When he did play, he was dominating at times. In a game last December against Rhode Island—a team that was ranked for a good portion of the year—Sharpe went for 26 points and 17 rebounds. He also scored 16 points on 7 of 10 shooting in a win at Kentucky. He is #42 (in green) in the video below.
I’m not sure how anyone could ask for more skill out of the 32nd pick. Maybe people irrationally—and possibly subconsciously—thought Joe D was going to fix all of Detroit’s ills with this one pick. That’s the only reason I can come up with that would explain all of the venom that has been directed at Joe. The more I learn about Sharpe, the better I feel about the pick.
Plus, Joe has earned the benefit of the doubt by making very good selections in the draft (outside of the lottery anyways). Here is a brief recap of what he has accomplished in the draft with the Pistons:
2000 1. 14 Mateen Cleaves
2000 2. 44 Brian Cardinal
2001 1. 9 Rodney White
2001 2. 37 Mehmet Okur
2002 1. 23 Tayshaun Prince
2003 1. 2 Darko Milicic
2003 1. 25 Carlos Delfino
2003 2. 58 Andreas Gliniadakis
2004 2. 54 Rickey Paulding
2005 1. 26 Jason Maxiell
2005 2. 56 Amir Johnson
2005 2. 60 Alex Acker
2006 1. 60 Will Blalock
2007 1. 15 Rodney Stuckey
2007 1. 27 Arron Afflalo
2007 1. 57 Sammy Mejia
2008 2. 34 Walter Sharpe
2008 2. 46 Trent Plaisted
2008 2. 59 Deron Washington
He drafted Okur, Delfino, Prince, Maxiell, Amir Johnson, Stuckey, and Afflalo with an average draft position of 30. That is incredible. He has made seven good picks (the players mentioned above) to three bad picks (Darko, White, and Cleaves). The three “bad” picks all happened at least five years ago. Granted, Joe D has made two of the worst lottery picks in NBA history with the Rodney White and Darko Milicic selections. However, his success-rate has been extraordinary when you consider where he has been drafting from.
Anyone who thought the Pistons were going to shock the world with the 29th pick needs to brush up on their draft history. It’s not like Joe picked, say, Darko Milicic when he could’ve picked, I don’t know, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, or Dwyane Wade. There should’ve been no expectations going into the draft from a fan’s perspective. Anything more than that would’ve been unfair. Even if the Pistons had a much higher selection, it’s not as if there were superstars right and left. Seattle took Russell Westbrook with the 4th overall pick! Can you imagine being a Sonics fan right now? People can say, “OMG Darko” for as long as they want but Joe has a proven record of success in the draft and I’m willing to bet that Sharpe eventually adds to his track record. And if he doesn’t, does it really matter if the Pistons blew the 34th pick in the draft? The last four players who went 32nd overall were Gabe Pruitt, Steve Novak, Daniel Ewing, and Peter John Ramos.