Utah Jazz NBA Draft Prospect: Sharife Cooper
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The NBA Draft is fast approaching, and the Utah Jazz have a bevy of options available to them with the 30th pick in the first round. One of those prospects is Sharife Cooper who had an impactful, albeit brief freshman season at Auburn.
Cooper was a five-star recruit out of high school and joined Bruce Pearl’s team at Auburn as the fifth-ranked point guard in the country and a top 30 player overall.
Despite his size, standing just 6’0 and weight 160 lbs, Cooper averaged an impressive 20.2 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 8.1 assists for the Tigers.
Sharife Cooper: Guard – Auburn
20.2 Points, 4.3 Rebounds, 8.1 Assists, 39.1/22.8/82.5
Strengths: Despite playing just 12 games during his college career at Auburn, Cooper jumped off the screen with his exciting style of play and highlight reel set of skills.
Cooper has terrific quickness to beat opposing players off the dribble allowing him to get into the paint where he did most of his damage scoring the ball, averaging over 20 points per game.
In addition to his quickness, he’s got a terrific set of dribbling skills that allow him to navigate opposing defenses with ease even against the better defenders at the college level. His style of play evokes memories of Isaiah Thomas with the Boston Celtics and or ballhandling wizardry of Kyrie Irving.
However, his best skill set is his playmaking once he beats his defender off the dribble, showing an elite understanding of spacing and passing windows. Cooper regularly finds teammates with lobs or crosscourt passes from either hand off the dribble that you rarely see at the college level.
There aren’t many college players who show that level of understanding of how to create for others, much less doing it in just 12 games as a freshman. Few players in the NBA draft will have a singular skill set that is as elite as Cooper’s passing.
Weaknesses: As terrific as Cooper’s playmaking is, the lows in his game are equally concerning.
First and foremost, at 6’0 and 160 lbs, he may simply be too small to compete full time in the NBA. There aren’t many players with that physical profile that succeed in the league, and Cooper could be the next causality in a long time of super talented undersized players.
Along those lines, all the concerns that come with undersized players showed up during Cooper’s 12 games at Auburn. Due to his size, he was an ineffective defender from both an effort and effectiveness standpoint. Bigger guards will easily bully him at the next level, even if he puts in more effort than he did in college.
Furthermore, his inefficiency as a shooter both finishing at the rim and from the three-point line are a red flag. Despite scoring more than 20 points per game, he had some of the poorest shooting percentages in college basketball.
Shooting below 40 percent from the floor and 23 percent are shockingly low, and scoring in the NBA won’t get easier against bigger defenders with a deeper three-point line.
There is some hope that this shot could improve with an overhaul to his flat-footed jumper and with more spacing in the NBA, but neither is a guarantee and without better efficiency, it will be hard for him to earn a spot on in a rotation.
Overall: Cooper’s raw scoring numbers and elite playmaking are a tantalizing and unique combination that could make him a real star at the NBA level. With Mike Conley’s future in question, Cooper would give the Jazz potentially another scoring and playmaking punch in the backcourt to alleviate pressure on Donovan Mitchell.
However, with the boom or bust potential, the Jazz may prefer to go in a different direction than Cooper on draft night, opting to add more size to the roster, especially with other high-scoring guard options already in the fold.
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