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Schiffer: Day’Ron Sharpe’s accelerated development a ‘big’ positive but how does he fit?

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Boston Celtics v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

Never in the Sean Marks era had the draftniks been in agreement on who the Nets would take in last year’s Draft. Day’Ron Sharpe was almost cemented into the 27th pick, Brooklyn’s own, in most mock drafts. When the Nets acquired the 29th pick from the Suns on Draft Night, it didn’t matter much. They simply used the 27th pick on Cam Thomas, then took Sharpe with the 29th.

The belief back then was that Sharpe, only 19 with only one year of college play at North Carolina, would spend much if not all of the 2021-22 season on Long Island, learning, learning, learning. He was fine with the idea. Then, injuries and illness and all the other madness associated with last season intervened. By season’s end, the kid from Greenville, N.C. had played in 32 NBA games, eight of them starts, averaging 6.2 points and 5.0 boards in 12 minutes. He played in Long Island as well, averaging 19.0, 13.5 and 3.5 assists in 20 games while hitting 33.3 percent of his three’s. He even set the G League record for offensive rebounds in a game with 15. Not bad.

Alex Schiffer, in profiling Sharpe Thursday, noted that Sharpe fulfilled his own goal for the season.

“At the end of the season, if Brooklyn felt like they made a good choice picking me, if they see me grow throughout the year, then I feel like that’s a successful year,” Sharpe told The Athletic in September. “If they feel comfortable with me going forward.”

Now, as Schiffer writes, Sharpe is the only big man currently under contract with the Nets for next season. Nic Claxton is a restricted free agent. Andre Drummond, Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge are all unrestricted. So what’s going on with the 6’11” big and more importantly where does he fit, as a 20-year-old in the Nets future plans?

“Day’Ron gives an element we don’t have with his activity and athleticism and hands and feel,” Steve Nash said in February when Sharpe had a three-game run where he averaged 10.3 rebounds and 7.0 points.

“I’m going to do whatever I can so I can get on that court,” Sharpe recently told Schiffer. “Hopefully next season, this summer, offseason I get better in all the places I want to get better in and next year I can come in and contribute.”

Right now, he’d behind 23-year-old Claxton in the rotation but no one knows where Claxton will play next season nor who the Nets might target in the trade market or in free agency. There’s also uncertainty about Drummond who was the Nets starting center the moment he came over in the James Harden-for-Ben Simmons trade.

Truth be told, Sharpe is still raw, but his development accelerated last season in unexpected and positive ways. Although coaches in Brooklyn and Long Island “coached the hell out” of him, as one Nets official said, he also got a lot of advice from the veteran bigs on the Brooklyn roster as well. Schiffer writes...

Each veteran tried to teach Sharpe something different. At media day in September, before the team left for Southern California, Griffin said Sharpe was still learning his own physicality after he took some shots from him in pickup. Griffin put his money where his bruises were and spent the year working with Sharpe on his post defense and teaching him how to maximize his size. After seeing Sharpe struggle with NBA officiating when he’d get some run, Aldridge helped the 20-year-old learn the nuances of foul calls. At times, Sharpe would lean sideways when he leaped, which made him prone to contact, and therefore a whistle. When Drummond arrived from Philly in the Harden trade, he spent his first games as a Net joining Aldridge’s efforts.

The Nets also assigned Kyle Korver to work with him on his deep shooting. In his post-draft press conference last July, Sean Marks said he believed Sharpe had potential as a 3-point shooter, noting “his ability to stretch the floor, which to be quite frank hasn’t been really seen yet,”

As Schiffer writes, Sharpe got other “lessons” during his first year in Brooklyn. Take the reception Joe and Clara Wu Tsai threw for the team during their training camp in San Diego. The Tsais brought in a magician and Steve Nash chose Sharpe as his foil. Welcome to the NBA, rook.

And when the Nets flew to Portland for that weird COVID make-up game in January, Sharpe quickly realized that it was the longest flight he’d ever been on. He was not enamored of the experience.

It’s hard to imagine Sharpe starting come October. Claxton played well at seasons well, other than his free throw shooting and every pundit has them prioritizing a big man this summer, Brooklyn surely feels they did well in picking him.