If you ask Scoot Henderson, he should be the number one overall pick.
“Yeah, I think I should go one,” Henderson told GQ Sports in an April interview. “I know I’m gonna go one.”
A 7-foot-5 unicorn named Victor Wembanyama may have something to say about that, but this pack leading mentality has been consistent from what we’ve seen from Henderson all season. When the two prospects faced off in October last year, it was Scoot who took down the French giant in the first of two matchups against the G-League Ignite and Metropolitans 92. From the jump, the point guard relentlessly attacked, and played with the intensity of an NBA playoff game, not a Las Vegas exhibition match. He finished that game with 28 points and 9 assists, while his top prospect counterpart put up 37 points.
Henderson has made a very strong case as a top pick in this draft. After being shut down by the G-League Ignite on March 14th, other names have snuck into the conversation. Some scouts have questioned whether teams may prefer someone like Alabama’s Brandon Miller or Amen Thompson from Overtime Elite as the second overall pick.
If the Spurs end up with the second selection, they will have a handful of names to consider, with Henderson being one of the biggest. Let’s dig into what makes the G-League Ignite’s latest star a top prospect in this draft.
Standing at 6’2”, Henderson bucks the trend of bigger guards that are taking over the NBA. He doesn’t play like a small guard, though. His athleticism allows him to play big at the rim, and explode in transition. His finishing skills are out of this world for someone his age. Just watch this dunk against the Birmingham Squadron.
That level of explosiveness is a game changer at the next level. Guys like Ja Morant and Russell Westbrook have used elite speed and athleticism to build superstar careers in the NBA, and Scoot has those kinds of physical gifts. He’s strong, too, and will go right through bigger defenders under the basket on his way to and-1 drives. He is going to come into the league from day one and be able to get to the cup.
But his game isn’t solely dependent on high flying finishes. His mid-range pull up is a legit offensive weapon. He gets great lift on shots outside of the paint and can get to it out of the pick and roll, or in isolation. As someone who doesn’t shoot it well from deep, having another dimension to his offensive arsenal outside of paint scores will bode well for his development as a lead guard.
The most promising part of the young guard’s game, and what will likely make him really stick in the NBA, is his character and basketball IQ. Henderson has that dog in him. He’s going to come at you relentlessly, no matter the score. He competes, talks smack, and has an air of confidence about him that is so fun to watch. But this isn’t a Dillon Brooks situation, where someone’s bark is bigger than their bite. Scoot see’s the game at an advanced level and makes high level reads already.
In the pick and roll he is of course a threat to score, but also uses that gravity to make plays for others. He’s made some unreal passes to the opposite corner out of the action, finding his teammates for easy jumpers. His connection with veteran John Jenkins with the Ignite was fun to watch this year, as he continuously found the shooter in transition for easy threes. Having someone who knows his personnel and can get them in the right spots to succeed is a game changer at the point guard position.
Henderson does a lot of the little things, rebounds well for a guard (averaged 5 rebounds a game with Ignite this season,) makes smart cuts, feeds the low post when they have an advantage and makes hustle plays. Adding his fire and intelligence for the game with his elite athleticism makes him a tantalizing offensive prospect.
The defense needs some real work. Henderson is not a strong point of the attack defender yet, which is surprising because of his speed. The real issue with Scoot is his ability to navigate screens. Too often he gets caught on both on-ball and off-ball screens, leading to a 5 on 4 disadvantage for his squad. He has to get better at not just blowing up screens but avoiding them while maintaining good defensive position.
Off of the ball it’s a similar story. He has a tendency to hug his man, which can open up driving lanes for other players. He’s a bit slow to his rotations, and sometimes completely misses where he should be. As a young player, this isn’t that rare, but it’s odd given how well Scoot sees the game on the offensive end. He has to improve on defense if he wants to become a winning player in the NBA.
Offensively the biggest gap in his game is the lack of a reliable three-point shot. He hit 28% of his threes this season. His mechanics aren’t horrible, but they are inconsistent, and sometimes he will rush into his shot. Defenders are already starting to sag off of him at the arc and go under ball screens. Luckily Scoot has used this as a chance to get into his mid-range pullup, which is very effective.
Off of the ball he has to be a cutter, or else he provides nothing on offense. He is not a good spot up shooter right now, seemingly having more confidence in pullup threes than stand still attempts. We’ve seen bursty guards thrive in the NBA without a reliable three-point shot — but if we are calling out weaknesses, this is certainly the biggest in his offensive game.
From day one, Henderson would become the man in San Antonio. He’s a natural born leader and would become the lead scorer that the team so desperately needs. It’s easy to see him in the Tre Jones role but adding more aggressive scoring. He has the ability to elevate the play of his teammates, and could make the lives of guys like Devin Vassell, Jeremy Sochan and Zach Collins much easier. With a young team looking for its identity, Scoot could be the guy to build it around.
He’s also a good fit in the Spurs system. With his high basketball IQ, he’d be adept at navigating the pick and roll, and cutting off of high post touches. San Antonio gets out a lot in transition, and with Scoot’s speed, he’d be dynamite on the break.
The shooting may be a cause for concern, as the Spurs ranked near the bottom in three-point percentage last year. Can you play Henderson, Sochan and Keldon Johnson all at the same time? That’s a lot of guys who can’t shoot, no matter how well Collins and Vassell can space the floor. The Spurs played a lot of lineups last year with multiple non-shooters, and the result was the second-worst offensive rating in the league. Scoot is a stronger offensive player than most of the guards they had last season, but his lack of shooting could exacerbate an already big problem on the roster.
On top of that, this is a bad defense, with some bad defensive personnel. Outside of a few prospects, no one the Spurs can select in the lottery can do much to change that. Henderson is not a great defender right now, but certainly has the tools to improve. He would need to grow with the rest of this roster to compete on that end of the floor.
It’s been apparent that the Spurs needed a star piece to build around all season. Scoot Henderson could be that piece, with his intangibles and athleticism. If the Spurs pick at #2, or somehow get lucky and he falls to #3, Henderson should be the no-brainer selection.