On Tuesday night, we saw a special contest between two of the presumptive top-5 picks in the 2023 NBA Draft. Scoot Henderson lined up for Ignite and Victor Wembanyama led Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92.
It is the first time that the NBA have put their Ignite side up against a top level European club and the game did not disappoint. Victor Wembanyama impressed hugely with his shot-making and carried his team all the way to the final buzzer. Wembanyama had 37 points for the night but his scoring was so effortless that it could have easily been more.
Victor is the clear front-runner to go first in the 2023 NBA Draft but it was Scoot Henderson who caught my eye. G League Ignite started in 2020 as a pathway for blue-chip prospects to go pro and learn their trade.
It has grown into being a fully-fledged G League team that is centred around developing young talent. Ignite’s growth is symbolised by the team’s move to Las Vegas. Jalen Green, Jonathan Kuminga and Dyson Daniels have all used Ignite as a launchpad to the NBA. Scoot is the latest in a line of blue-chippers to do the same.
Scoot Henderson finished high school in Georgia and had his pick of options. Henderson had offers from Alabama and Clemson in collegiate athletics. He could have signed with a league like Overtime Elite where he would have had the opportunity to become a marketable star before he even entered the league.
Henderson instead opted to take the hardest road and join Ignite for the 2021-22 season. He was very good as a 17 year old but his game lacked polish; Henderson was a good inside scorer but his passing was not good enough. Henderson’s first year was okay but nothing to write home about.
This is a big season for Scoot. Henderson can declare for the Draft at the end of the season and finally join the NBA. A lot of people within the NBA’s draft circle expected improvement out of Henderson but not to this level.
On national television, Henderson showed out and brought his best to the table. Scoot scored 28 points and had 9 assists against the Parisian side. Coach Jason Hart used his Henderson as a floor general and Scoot was excellent in this role.
Henderson’s explosive first step and broad shoulders allowed him to plow a path to the rim at will but he did not solely focus on scoring. Scoot played at his own tempo and that control of pace was notable when Henderson ran pick and rolls.
Once the defender was on his back, Henderson would take a yo-yo dribble and give himself thinking time to see the whole floor. The dribble slowed the game down, making it much easier for Scoot to find the corners of the court. He got the ball to open shooters countless times and it is one of the reasons why he ended up with 9 assists.
His handle was razor-sharp whenever he attacked the basket. The ball was rarely away from his body which made it difficult for defenders to rake the rock and get out in transition. Scoot’s A:TO for the night was 4.5; he used the ball productively and did not give away offensive possessions for free.
At the rim, Henderson was selective with his finishing and showed a good understanding of space. When he attacked Victor, Scoot used reverse layups to shield the ball and open up a shooting window. He was self aware enough to know that attacking Wembanyama head-on would not be a fruitful scoring opportunity. His spatial awareness is uncommon in young players.
We did see Henderson’s above the rim finishing come to the fore when he raced out in transition but he mostly relied upon crafty, well-executed layups to get buckets inside. His athleticism and ability to hang in the air a moment longer than his opponents was valuable for Scoot as he scored in the painted area.
Henderson’s jumper looked better than last season but the sample size is quite small and I would like more evidence before reaching a conclusion on where Henderson may end up being a shooter. He has the handle and patience to be a space-creator who can generate step-backs at will but that is theorised potential at this point; it is not yet a tangible projection.
The Thunder have been built with playmaking in mind. Every player on the roster except for Darius Bazley can catch the ball at the perimeter and make a play for a teammate. Adding an elite point guard prospect like Henderson would only amplify the Thunder’s offense.
A back-court of Henderson and Gilgeous-Alexander would be incredibly dynamic and something worth thinking about. This might be the Thunder’s last chance to add a true blue-chipper in the Draft; tanking for Scoot could be worthwhile.