Monday, June 30, 2008

His name is Walter Sharpe

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.


Anonymous said...

Going into this draft I was really hoping it wasn't going to be DJ White. I saw a lot of potential, especially at the 4/5 positions, and Joe has set this team up with a lot of young talent (Stuckey, Afflalo, Amir, Max) that a developmental big seemed like an aligning of the stars in terms of need and availability. But still, Joe has a system and I just kept seeing DJ Whites name as the call.

So when the pick was coming and a guy like DeAndre Jordan, who has been compared to guys like Dwight Howard, was still there, I was praying that Joe wouldn't take his typical end of the first round, upperclassmen, unsexy pick. Then DJ White's name was called, I couldn't be mad at Joe. I was far from happy, but Joe's system has yielded some good players, and I had the same feelings about White's name being called that I had about guys like Prince, Max, and Afflalo (I don't count Stucky, to me picking at 15 is way different than in the 20's).

But there was something about the way this team has been built, the way the last few seasons have gone, and the talent in this draft, I just felt like Joe and I were on the same page and that he was going to mix it up this year and break his system.

I let the White pick sink in and after a few minutes I texted a friend and was like, no way this is done. I said that Joe should trade this pick for two picks in the early second. I didn't even look to see if a team had two picks and maybe it was more of a wish than anything else but as soon as I put the phone down the telecast mentioned a DJ White deal and went to commercial. I thought I made the whole thing up. They came back on a few minutes later and I was ecstatic to hear the deal. We could still draft a guy like Jordan and maybe package our pick with the one we just obtained and move up for CDR or Walker.

Then the world came (temporarily) crashing down. Walter Sharpe! I had no idea who he was, it was so far off the radar, and seemed to be a crappy name. Walt? Walt Disney? Walt from Lost? It seemed like with the last name Sharpe that his name should begin with an S like Sterling or Shannon or some cool like Shooter, so when he writes his name on applications it's Sharpe, Shooter. Something other than Walt.

I don't even remember if ESPN had a clip of him. Van Gundy and Jackson were silent. All Bilas could muster was he was being talked about lately and gaining some momentum. I wasn't sure if that was him covering the Pistons to make them not look bad or if Jay was just covering his own rear like an analyst that had no idea of a player that was not just picked higher than expected, but picked AT ALL! Maybe he was afraid of blasting the pick and have Joe come on the air and blast Bilas ala Who the Hell is Mel Kiper!?

Like you, I immediately searched for as much information as I could. I found out that he was a 4-star recruit out of high school. A top 10 PF in his class. The type of guy that if he goes to your school you get all giddy about! He had ability and desire to play inside-out. And knowing Joe's ability to read a player and in Joe we trust I came to realize that just about everything I was looking for in a guy like Jordan was basically there in Sharpe. The high reward type of guy and by making it a second round pick, he made it low risk.

One concern I do have is that what I hear about in him I heard about in Rodney White. Similar size, similar skill, similar lack of (basketball) experience to go on. I'm banking on Joe learning from his mistakes, and here's hoping that Sharpe has learned from his (and takes his meds).

Unknown said...

Nice blog. In general, I've been annoyed by a ton of Piston fans who think they know better. I have my own opinions, but I also know there is so much we fans don't see behind the scenes.

In those highlights Sharpe looks long, athletic, and smooth as well, though admittedly those were just a few clips. I'll judge Walter Sharpe when I see him in the summer league. I just wish more games were being televised. If gas prices weren't so high, I'd drive over to Vegas and check em out in person.


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