Auburn basketball: Is Sharife Cooper still a lottery pick?

Auburn basketball’s freshman point guard Sharife Cooper took the college basketball world by storm…once he was finally allowed to play by the NCAA, of course. Cooper played his first game back with the team on January 9 against Alabama after his eligibility was withheld for all of the non-conference portion of the season–and even some of the SEC schedule.

Even after missing the first 11 games and 72 practices, though, Cooper racked up 26 points in that Alabama game and then recorded his first double-double in the following game against Georgia. He’s expected to be the Auburn basketball program’s second one-and-done after Isaac Okoro and is touted as Auburn’s highest-ranked recruit in program history.

Early talks named Sharife Cooper as a lottery pick for the 2021 NBA Draft, including a mock draft published by Bleacher Report last month. Cooper was projected to be pick #14 to the Houston Rockets.

Auburn teammates were looking at open shots all day thanks to Cooper’s ability to break down the defense and find shooters and lob targets off the dribble.

There isn’t any teaching Cooper’s knack for consistently creating high-percentage looks, either for himself or others.

Cooper is averaging 19.2 points per game and 8.6 assists, but as he’s spent more time on the floor, some issues have emerged in his game. Is Sharife Cooper still going to be a lottery pick?

Maybe not, according to Bleacher Report. Yesterday, Jonathan Wasserman posted an updated Top 50 players, assigning Sharife Cooper to spot #16.

Cooper keeps racking up the assists (8.6 per game) with translatable playmaking skills fueled by his creative ball-handling and terrific live-dribble passing. However, at 6’1″, problems finishing (43.9 percent) and shooting (24.8 percent 3PT) are raising questions about his NBA scoring potential.

While Cooper is fantastic at driving into the paint and making his way to the free-throw line, he struggles defensively and has trouble making shots fall from beyond the arc. Despite these troubles, ESPN’s latest mock draft still places him in the top ten, according to Auburn Wire.

As the season winds down and Cooper gains more experience on the collegiate playing level–he’s only seen action in 11 games so far–we may see improvements, and we may still see him become a lottery pick in 2021.