The 2023 NBA Draft class is expected to be one of the best in recent years and it all starts at the top with the No. 1 prospect, Victor Wembanyama.
By now, you’ve almost certainly heard of Wembanyama, the 7-foot-3, French big man who truly fits the “unicorn” label that gets thrown around far too often these days. The 18-year-old protects the rim and catches lobs the way you’d expect from someone of his height with a 7-foot-9 (!) wingspan, but what makes him truly unique is he plays more like a wing than a traditional big. Wembanyama can create his own shot off the dribble, rising up with a stunningly fluid jumper for a player his size, or using his surprising quickness to attack the rim.
Those attributes already have teams positioning themselves for what should be an epic tankathon in the NBA this year, but coming up just short of winning the lottery would be far from a consolation prize for any franchise.
That’s because Scoot Henderson, a G League Ignite guard and the consensus No. 2 prospect hiding in plain sight behind Wembanyama, also has the potential to become a franchise-altering talent.
If you’re unfamiliar with Henderson, he was a five-star recruit who ranked as the No. 7 prospect in the high school Class of 2022. He finished his high school credits early and signed a seven-figure deal to play for the Ignite at the age of 17, technically making him the youngest professional basketball player in United States history.
The 6-foot-2, 195-pound guard already has a full season of pro basketball under his belt, but because of his age, he was not eligible for the 2022 NBA Draft.
Being the first Ignite prospect who wasn’t immediately draft-eligible, Henderson has become the poster child for the development program as he gets set to enter his second season playing in the G League.
— NBA G League Ignite (@gleagueignite) April 21, 2022
More often than not, Henderson looked like the best player on the Ignite’s roster last season. Better than Dyson Daniels, who went No. 8 overall to the Pelicans. Better than Jaden Hardy, who fell to the Mavericks in the second round but emerged as a breakout player at Summer League.
Over 11 games at the G League Showcase Cup and 10 exhibition games for the Ignite, Henderson averaged 14.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.6 steals, proving he’s capable of holding his own against grown men as a teenager.
But what is it about Henderson’s game specifically that gives him the potential to be a franchise cornerstone in the near future?
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How good is Scoot Henderson? 2023 NBA Draft prospect scouting report
With solid size, strength and length at 6-foot-2, 195 pounds with a reported 6-foot-9 wingspan, Henderson already looks the part of a combo guard at the NBA level.
The first thing you’ll notice is his explosiveness as an athlete. He takes no time to accelerate before rising up and attacking the basket with aggression. Henderson is at his best when he gets downhill, using his speed and strong frame to absorb contact, shed off defenders and finish at the rim — which is by far the most impressive aspect of his game.
(For what it’s worth, that’s former G League Ignite prospect and No. 7 overall pick Jonathan Kuminga, who played 70 games for the NBA champion Warriors, defending Henderson.)
He moves swiftly and smoothly in the open floor, pushing the ball directly at backpedaling defenders or running the lanes hard to create easy layups or dunks. In the halfcourt, once he turns a corner and gets past that first line of defense, he’s a nightmare to stop because of his ability to keep opponents guessing with a quick pull-up jumper.
Henderson’s pull-up game is deadly — and far more advanced than a typical prospect. Not only does he have a smooth shooting stroke and high release, but he’s able to stop on a dime.
The combination gives him the confidence to knock down midrange jumpers at a high clip.
Because of how dynamic he is with the ball in his hands, Henderson is more of a point guard than a shooting guard. He shared ball-handling duties with Daniels and Hardy this past season, so he’s only scratching the surface of his playmaking potential.
He showed flashes as a passer during his first season with the Ignite, knowing when to take what the defense gives him by making simple reads to find open teammates. Every now and then, he displayed some advanced passing skills, which we can only hope to see more of when he receives the keys to the offense next year.
After one professional season, Henderson already looks ready for the next level. His development in Year 2 should be a scary sight for the rest of the G League.
Areas of improvement
For as talented as Henderson already is, he’s still an 18-year-old with plenty of room for improvement.
His most glaring weakness is his 3-point shooting, though him already being a legitimate midrange threat is a promising sign for his future development.
Henderson only converted 21.6 percent (11-51) of his 3s during his first season with the Ignite, struggling to find any sort of a rhythm both off the catch and dribble. Even with a clean shooting stroke, he’ll have to extend his range beyond the arc to maximize his offensive talents at the next level.
He could also improve as a shot creator by tightening his ball-handling. Even though Henderson has an elite pull-up game, he hasn’t quite developed some of the stepbacks and side-steps we see from prolific scoring pros to create additional space from defenders. One would think that will come with time.
On the other side of the ball, Henderson still has a ways to go. He has the tools to be a disruptive and physical perimeter defender but we haven’t seen it come to fruition just yet.
He had trouble keeping his assignments in front of him off the dribble, often reaching to try and come up with a steal as his opponent drove by him. He does have quick hands to poke the ball loose, but sometimes, it was to a fault.
He can get lost trying to navigate ball screens — a crucial skill as a guard in the pick-and-roll-heavy NBA — but that should improve as he continues to get reps.
Henderson is an NBA-ready prospect, but if he can fine-tune these few areas over the next season, he’ll be as well-rounded as they come heading into his rookie season in 2023-24.