Portland Trail Blazers guard Scoot Henderson is expected to miss two more weeks of action following an ankle sprain and bone bruise suffered on November 1st against the Detroit Pistons. If the forecast holds true, Henderson will have missed ten games, roughly one eighth of his rookie season. It’s a break he can ill afford.
Expectations were high when the Blazers drafted Henderson third overall in the 2023 NBA Draft. They rose higher when it became clear that point guard Damian Lillard would not return for the ensuing season, opening the door for Scoot to start.
The young guard has not lived up to the hype yet. Not even close. That’s the subject on the mind of this reader via the Blazer’s Edge Mailbag.
Scoot’s out a long time now and I don’t know whether to be relieved or disappointed. I’m mostly kidding about that but not all the way. We have looked better without him. I want him to get better and get back himself but I want a better version of Scoot when he does come back. I know you’ll say he needs time but what area of the game do you want him to work on while he’s gone in order to improve when he does get back and start?
I don’t know much about bone bruises, Irv, but I do know that sprained ankles are painful, not the kind of thing you can work through easily. If the bone bruise is more intense, I’m guessing Henderson will be fit for light duty, if anything. Maybe he’ll get in some upper body work, but he was already stacked in that area.
Missing such a large swath of games is extremely unhelpful for a player who requires repetition. Henderson needs to see game action, make reads, learn NBA defenses, start to pick up his teammates’ patterns and proclivities. Absent court time, no amount of film work is going to build the muscle memory and instinct needed for Scoot to prosper.
If Henderson plays unscathed for the rest of the year, this will be a minor bump. His learning curve will be extended by a dozen games or so. That’s annoying, but not back-breaking.
If Henderson misses more games, though, he’s going to face a redo of his rookie season next year. That’s going to be a little more than annoying. I’m hoping it doesn’t happen, not so much because the Blazers need to find out who Scoot is, but because Scoot needs to find out—and believe in—who Scoot is before anyone else will.
All of that said, the single most glaring hole in his game, one that might be able to get some work even with a bum ankle, is the three-point shot. Over five games, Henderson is shooting just 9.5% from the arc on 4.2 attempts per game. He can’t really shoot fewer; defenses are abandoning him at range, so there’s nowhere else to take the play. He just needs to hit more than 1 in 10 attempts.
Until he becomes a threat, opponents will leave Scoot, keep a man near sideline shooters on either side of the floor, then sag into the lane to play 3-on-2 versus whomever Portland throws in there. That’s going to foul up Deandre Ayton’s game. It’s also going to make developing plays take longer, anathema to Portland’s quick attack. Either Scoot hits or the offense is the sh...well, you know.
It’s not going to be easy, though. The eye test confirms what the stats speak so clearly. Henderson isn’t just missing short or long, like a shooter who’s rushed or trying to regain confidence. He misses left and right by significant margins when shooting from distance. It’s not even close. His shot needs major work.
Almost everything else Henderson will try this year can be picked up on the fly or compensated for by his athleticism. That includes driving and finishing, dishing off of drives, and defending. The three-pointer can’t be faked, though. It’s binary, hit or miss. A 9-to-1 ratio of misses to hits is borderline unacceptable. It’ll dwarf every other development until he gets it to work.
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