HEIGHT: 6’0 (6’1 at Auburn’s Website)
WEIGHT: 160 lbs (180 lbs at Auburns Website)
HIGH SCHOOL: McEachern (GA)
AAU: AOT (EYBL)
Versatile Three-Position Wing Defender with Offball Roaming Freedom
Primary Initiator with Three-Level Scoring
Two-Way-Wing with Two-Level Scoring
ATHLETICISM / INTANGIBLES
- Small margin of error in everything he does because of his lack of size. It is on display in many aspects of his game.
- Plays with an attacking mindset, at least on offense. Fearless driver and finisher.
- Despite his lack of size and weight, he looks relatively strong. However, it’s not at a clear above average level, but it helps in many situations.
- Has a weird imbalance of offensive movement capability and defensive movement capability. Described below, he is really shifty and is good in terms of tight space movement. He can’t translate it into defensive movements.
- Brother of WNBA player Te’a Cooper. His other sister Mia played together with Te’a at McEachern and won state titles there. His twin brother, Omar, is currently at Marietta Highschool in Georgia. It’s not overstated to say that they are a quite talented basketball family.
- Was granted eligibility after sitting out the first 11 games due to investigations about his eligibility status. He practiced with the team all through the summer, but was held out by Auburn during the ongoing investigations.
- He averaged 30.6 points, 7.8 assists and 3.6 steals per game as a senior at McEachern High, where he was teammates with former Tiger standout Isaac Okoro (the No. 5 overall pick in last week’s NBA Draft) and current centers Babatunde Akingbola and Dylan Cardwell.
- Lob pass extraordinaire. Loves to use his left hand for lob passes. He is sometimes a bit to adventurous with his lob attempts. He tends to throw them pretty early. The problem here is that the defense has a fairly easy time tracking the flight path of his passes to intercept them.
- Sometime problems seeing the floor in some situations because of his lack of physical height. That leads also to smaller passing windows and difficult angles for passes.
- Loves his in and out dribble with both hands. Uses it when attacking bigs in hedge situations and against switches. Heavier footed players can be taken out really quickly when the back foot is attacked this way.
- The finishing is pretty bad due to his size. He has to work in really tight spaces and create huge advantages on a regular to be good here, even at the college level. There seems to be nothing wrong with “how” he finishes. He uses advanced techniques and can go deep in his bag of tricks, but he just isn’t physically capable because of his lack of length and strength level which is just decent, but isn’t good enough to help him dislodge defenders.
- Uses his left hand on layups, but clearly lacks touch here.
- His advantage creation in terms of his drive is excellent. His FTr of 64 % through the first 10 games is just a statistical evidence. The burst looks fairly decent, but not elite. He wins with timing and through good use of attacking angles to gain separation. His advanced handle helps him in that regard.
- Sometimes he picks up his dribble in weird situations which limits his options with the ball.
- Cooper isn’t as terrible as a shooter than his early three-point percentages suggest (11/45 3PA). He went 1/16 through the first three games and 10/29 3PA after. Still, it’s a small sample size theater here, but my database has him at 49/163 3PA (30.1 %) through Highschool, EYBL and College. Still not great, but easier to deal with along with his overall free throw numbers (217/255, 85.1 %). His release point is quite low, at eye level. This seems to be quite favorable to pull-up shooting from distance but isn’t really practical for 6 foot guys who didn’t really get of the ground when shooting. It limits his margin of error in this area. His mechanics overall are quite solid, but there might be some room for some slight improvements. However, Sharife is at least at this point a below average shooter, despite some good indicators.
- Overall a pretty bad defender. Seems not to be engaged sometimes and is slow reacting off ball. That leads to a lot of cuts from his man for scoring opportunities.
- Gets totally lost in off ball defense situations. Seems to process situations rather slow on that end. His overall positioning leaves to be desired as well.
- It’s really astounding that Cooper is that good with his movement on offense and has such bad habits on defense. On offense, he looks really agile and shifty with the ball while he can’t translate this into his defensive movement.
- Problems in screen defense. Rather slow turning his hips, isn’t aggressive enough fighting through screens. At this point, it’s fairly easy to screen him out of a play entirely.
- He tends to clap his heels together sometimes when he tries to turn quickly. He hops into the turning motion which takes him out of the play even after one dribble sometimes.
- At last, we have to keep in mind that Sharife still is just 6’0 “big” and that those type of guards are rarely a positive piece on defense. Even guys with clear above average level of strength, feel and toughness will get abused on an NBA floor, and are rarely playable in high leverage situations. He looks like a pretty big negative piece already, and I can’t see how he could change this midterm. I just can’t see a scenario where Cooper provides enough value to justify starter minutes on a good team at this point.
The Story of Sharife Cooper seems to be also the story of many small initiator prospects in the past. It’s just pretty hard to succeed at the NBA level when you are that small. To understand how hard it is, I will go a bit further below.
Yes, this archetype can be very successful in the league. There a fairly recent examples like Fred VanVleet or Isaiah Thomas who provided clear starter level production or even more at their respective career high. Both guys are incredible strong for their size and position, are elite shooters and in VanVleets case, even underrated defenders in every aspect that doesn’t require length. Providing more avenues to succeed besides rim pressure and playmaking for others are key in this. You just have to ask guys like Trey Burke, Shabazz Napier, Russ Smith, Peyton Siva, Pierre Jackson, Phil Pressey and countless other high level college ballhandler who, more or less, didn’t survive the bloodbath that is the ballhandler rotation on NBA teams. In some cases it was just defensive production, in other cases just struggle in several more aspects that prevent them from getting or holding their spot on an NBA team. The margin of error for those guys is that slim. In the end, you just can’t teach height.
There are clear pathways to success for Sharife Cooper, but it concerns me that he seems like a terrible finisher, isn’t a good shooter and lacks above average strength. I still want to bet on him developing into a pretty interesting rotational ballhandler who will be playable in enough matchups to be considered as a clear NBA player. His rim pressure looks quite elite, and he just creates advantages for himself and his teammates. There is clear value in this despite being a negative defender. However, it will come down to his development as a shooter how successful he can be on an NBA floor. It’s a very thin line between him succeeding and being just not playable in a lot of matchups especially when it comes to high leverage situations. That will hold down his draft stock significantly, and I’m not willing to bet on his strengths overcoming his mentioned weaknesses completely.
AS OF: 2/12/2021