The New York Knicks are searching for a point guard this offseason, either in free agency or the draft. If the Knicks stand pat with their first round selections — No. 19 and No. 21 — there are a few intriguing prospects that could be on New York’s radar. One of those players is Sharife Cooper.
Cooper, 6’3.5” and 180 pounds (though many contest that listed height), spent one season at Auburn before declaring for the 2021 NBA Draft. Before heading to the NCAA, he was a McDonald’s All-American (2020) and was named to the Jordan Brand Classic team (2020), was the USA Today All-USA Player of the Year (2019), and was named Mr. Georgia Basketball (2019). The 20-year-old guard earned a spot on the SEC All-Freshman Team (2021). Most mock drafts have the former Auburn guard being selected in the middle to late part of the first round. Cooper averaged 20.1 points, 8.1 assists, 4.2 rebounds, and 1.0 steals per game in his lone collegiate season.
Sharife Cooper showcased his game at Auburn that made him a potential first round pick. He is one of the top playmakers in the draft and is an intelligent ball-handler who can facilitate and find his teammates in the right spot. Cooper has outstanding passing instincts and great vision. He makes plays before defense has time to react. The 6’3” guard excels with the ball in his hand and was the engine of the Tigers last season.
Not only is Cooper good at creating for his teammates, as evidenced by his 8.1 assists per game last season, he is good at creating for himself as well. He might be the best penetrator in the draft, is a solid finisher, and can blow by his opponents with his quickness. He has the strong ability to finish at the rim and draw fouls and is a good free throw shooter (82.5%).
The former Auburn Tiger has a strong handle and can get anywhere on the court.
Not only does he put pressure on opposing defenses, but defenders struggle to stay in front of him due to his quick first step. He works great in the pick-and -roll.
Cooper’s defense needs to improve, but his small frame will make it difficult. He struggled shooting the ball (39.1 FG%) and took too many difficult shots last season. Cooper has an inconsistent perimeter shot (22.8 3PT%). He can be careless with ball and turns the ball over often (4.1 last season). He doesn’t have a great shooting form (slow release with his shot) and gets little elevation on his jumper. In order to have success at the next level, his shooting and shot selection must improve. How will he fare against bigger point guards in the NBA?
Sharife Cooper brings a lot to the table and could be a great pick for a team in the 20-30 range. He made an impact with his playmaking and creating for himself, but he will need to work on his shot. While teams may pass on Cooper due to his size, he could be a great pick up for a team looking for a point guard. If he develops his shot and becomes an average defender, the guard could have a good career at the next level. Sharife Cooper has been linked to the Knicks and could be a good pick up for New York.