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Henderson Expected to Start for Blazers, Murray Not

Divergent futures for Portland’s first-round picks.

2023 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot Photo by Cooper Neill/NBAE via Getty Images

The Portland Trail Blazers seemed happy with their first pair of picks in the 2023 NBA Draft. Point guard Scoot Henderson grabbed plenty of attention as the third overall selection, while forward Kris Murray was deemed a smart pick at 23.

This week Bleacher Report writer Jonathan Wasserman forecast the immediate future of all 30 first-round draft picks, including Henderson and Murray, tabbing them as immediate starters, bench players, or candidates for the G League.

Unsurprisingly. Wasserman tabbed Henderson for a starting role with the Blazers, though he’s playing in a considerable shadow:

If the Blazers don’t trade [Damian] Lillard by the start of the season, it’s worth wondering if he would suit up for them knowing the front office is actively seeking out trades for an inevitable deal.

Lillard playing would complicate Henderson’s projected role, particularly with Anfernee Simons in the picture as well. But the best bet is still on Henderson being handed the keys right away and his ball-handling, speed, explosion, strength, pull-up game and playmaking translating quickly.

He’ll be inconsistent from three and frustrate at times by taking contested two-point jumpers. But the Blazers wouldn’t draft the ball-dominant Henderson if they weren’t confident in his lead-guard potential. The likelihood of a Lillard trade means the rookie should have plenty of freedom to play through mistakes.

Promotion to the starting lineup may seem like an automatic designation for Henderson, but it’s worth noting that Wasserman pegged Brandon Miller—selected one spot before Scoot—as a bench player for the Charlotte Hornets.

He’ll still get minutes at times with the first unit, which could use his catch-and-shoot game. But Miller could have some trouble scoring efficiently early, assuming his struggles executing after creation and finishing while at Alabama resurface during his first NBA season.

As for Murray, Wasserman has him south of starting, north of the G League, even while admitting that time with the Rip City Remix may be in his future:

He’s bound to surface with the Blazers at some point, as the coaching staff could picture his shot-making, cutting/finishing and motor translating to instant off-ball scoring and defensive activity. He’ll be the type of player who doesn’t need plays run or dribbles to score.

Knowing Murray will turn 23 in August, Portland presumably put some stock into the likelihood that he was more prepared to play right away.

Since 4 of the 5 players surrounding Murray in the draft order were described as G League candidates, Wasserman apparently has high regard for Portland’s drafting prowess at this early stage. Do you agree?