Sharife Cooper
(Photo Credit: Walt Beazley/Arkansas Athletics)

Why Did Sharife Cooper Fall So Far in the 2021 NBA Draft?

Auburn point guard Sharife Cooper was drafted with the No. 48 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. Cooper, a former five-star prospect, might have been the steal of the draft. Many evaluators were left wondering how in the world he fell so far.

Sharife Cooper had an extremely productive season at Auburn, finishing his freshman year averaging 20.2 points and 8.1 assists per game. He became the only Division I freshman other than Trae Young to average more than 20 and eight in the last 25 seasons. I had him slotted in at No. 14, No. 25, and No. 25 in my three mock drafts, respectively. Looking through evaluations on Cooper before the draft, there was a lot of variability to be sure, but the vast majority of mock drafts had his name called in the first round.

Concerns With Sharife Cooper

NBA teams likely had two big concerns with Sharife Cooper: his height and his shooting. His listed height of 6-1 is definitely generous, so many teams probably considered his stature to be a potential hindrance at the next level. My response to that is that he clearly had no problem producing as a freshman playing Division I basketball. We’ve seen plenty of shorter players succeed in the NBA, and Cooper might be more talented than almost all of them.

Also, Cooper shot 39.1% from the field and 22.8% from three last season, which rightfully raised some red flags. However, this was more likely than not a function of high usage rate for an Auburn basketball team that finished 7-11 in the SEC and 13-14 overall. Cooper’s 82.5% free throw percentage is more evidence that his shot isn’t broken, but rather that the primary culprit at Auburn was his shot selection and lack of high-level teammates.

In any case, the Atlanta Hawks got a steal in Sharife Cooper. He is a high-level scorer and facilitator, something the Hawks could really use to take the load off Trae Young. Cooper will do well in the Hawks pick-and-roll sets that the 6-1 Young also benefits from. Atlanta continues to add solid young pieces after reaching the 2021 Eastern Conference Finals.

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