The Portland Trail Blazers have selected Scoot Henderson with the third pick of the 2023 NBA Draft. As expected, the San Antonio Spurs picked center Victor Wembanyama as the first choice overall. The Charlotte Hornets took Alabama forward Brandon Miller with the second selection, leaving Henderson for the Trail Blazers.
Henderson joins a team with Damian Lillard as the lead guard. The most famous Trail Blazer of all time has requested roster help so the latter part of his career can be spent contending in the playoffs, not representing the team at lottery drawings. Whether Henderson and Lillard can coexist as ball-dominant point guards remains to be seen.
Whether they’ll have to is an open question as well. Henderson is expected to develop into a franchise-defining star himself. His value on the trade market should be high. If he plays well, it will only increase with time. If he plays incredibly well, Lillard himself may end up on the trading block.
Those are questions for tomorrow. For today, the Blazers got themselves a player who, in a non-Wembanyama year, would be projected as a first-overall pick or a close second. Here’s how Blazer’s Edge draft guru Steve Dewald described Henderson’s game in our pre-draft preview.
- Height: 6’2”
- WT: 195
- Wingspan: 6’9”
- Shooting Hand: Right
- Position: PG
- Age: 19
- Projected draft range: 2-3
*Stats are a combination the G League Ignite’s regular season and showcase schedules
- PTS: 17.6 | Per 36: 21.0
- AST: 6.6 | Per 36: 7.8
- REB: 5.1 | Per 36: 6.1
- STL: 1.2 | Per 36: 1.4
- FG%: 44.4
- 3P%: 32.4
- FT%: 75.0
Scoot Henderson combines elite athleticism and a cerebral approach to lead-guard duties. Buoyed by an explosive first step, Henderson’s film pops from the moment it starts. He effortlessly blows by defenders, powers through contact in the paint, and finishes attempts above the rim. His speed and penchant for getting vertical make him an absolute menace in the open court. Henderson can rise to the cup with a short runway and can do so off of either leg. When he isn’t going for a poster-worthy dunk, he carefully shields the ball with his body to convert contested layups. Henderson’s downhill scoring ability is more than just pure athleticism, though. He controls the pace the entire way. From carefully timed direction changes to stopping on dime, Henderson is an expert at creating separation.
When Henderson isn’t at the rim, he possesses all the mechanics to beat opponents with pull-up jumpers. His dribble-to-shot motion does not waste movement and it punishes defenders that give him too much space around the elbows. Along with his pull-up shot, Henderson has a fluid floater that keeps defenses off balance beyond the restricted area.
Outside of one-on-one opportunities, Henderson is a polished pick-and-roll operator. It is rare to watch a teenager that has a firm understanding of their on-court gravity. Henderson constantly stretches opposing defenses to create favorable looks for his teammates. He consistently avoids turnovers and puts the ball on the mark for the roll man in traffic. Henderson’s pick-and-roll prowess matches his isolation talent to form an ideal offensive centerpiece for today’s NBA.
Defensively, Henderson’s long arms and athleticism allow him to cover guards that hold a height advantage. Off the ball, his quickness and leaping ability combine to generate steals and blocks. Along with those physical gifts, Henderson is a relentless competitor. He routinely fights through screens and challenges larger players at the rim.
Henderson’s lack of three-point consistency prevents him from earning the label of a complete package. His outside shooting improved year-over-year in the G League, but it is not a finished product. When his shot isn’t falling from outside, defenses give him space to shoot and clog driving lanes as a result. Henderson’s three-point shooting woes are compounded by his lack of efficiency as a catch-and-shoot option. His high-usage role with the Ignite squad this year did very little to develop his off the ball presence on offense.
Inside the arc, Henderson settles for too many midrange shots early in possessions. On defense, he doesn’t have the anchor to keep larger opponents out of the paint when switches occur.
Following Dyson Daniels’ departure to the NBA, Henderson took over primary ball handling duties for Ignite. Going against professional competition each night, as a teenager, Henderson established himself as a premier option on offense. Ignite finished with a regular season record of 11-21. Due to a concussion and nasal fracture early in the season, Henderson appeared in only 19 of those outings.
If it wasn’t for Victor Wembanyama, Henderson would have a legitimate claim to the No. 1 overall spot in this draft. By comparison, Henderson’s combination of athleticism and experience as a facilitator place him well ahead of Jaden Ivey’s profile from 2022. Henderson has the pick-and-roll chops, explosiveness, and basketball knowledge to rival or exceed the early-career production of Ja Morant and Anthony Edwards.
Henderson possesses a plethora of traits that simply cannot be taught, or at best, take years to develop. On the opposite end of the spectrum, his flaws as a prospect are correctable. Henderson’s shot mechanics are sound and his shooting touch in other areas pave the way towards an improved three-point shot.
In a Wembanyama-or-bust climate heading into the lottery drawing, it is a cumbersome task to envision Henderson’s fit with the Blazers. However, imagining a future backcourt that features Shaedon Sharpe and Henderson is a worthy and exciting thought exercise. If both players reach their respective potentials, a Henderson-Sharpe starting backcourt would elicit headaches from every corner of the NBA.
If the Blazers manage to move up in the lottery, but fail to land the No. 1 pick, Henderson’s presence on the board has the potential to create an interesting situation for Portland. If a team is desperate to acquire the rights to a talented guard in exchange for legitimate win-now players or valuable assets, why not wait it out to see if Damian Lillard becomes available?
For me, there are three tiers in the early lottery this year. Wembanyama and Henderson, in that order, get their own tiers. The next five players on my board land in their own group. Henderson’s talent and potential fit next to Sharpe should warrant serious consideration from the Blazers. From a value standpoint, Henderson is at the top of the non-Wembanyama list in this draft. If a hypothetical trade capable of undoing nearly a decade of roster mismanagement magically comes to fruition for the Blazers, Henderson could headline an outgoing trade package.