3 Reasons Scoot Henderson is answer to Blazers’ No. 3 pick conundrum

Scoot Henderson, NBA G League Ignite Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
Scoot Henderson, NBA G League Ignite Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports /

What the Portland Trail Blazers will do with the third pick in the 2023 NBA Draft remains a mystery. Will they trade it, along with other future assets, to add a star veteran and build a win-now roster? Will they keep it and risk Damian Lillard wanting to leave Portland? The answer may be neither: the answer may simply be Scoot Henderson.

At first glance, Henderson is all the things Portland doesn’t need. A 6-foot-2 guard who could get exposed on defense. Ball-dominant. 19 years old. A poor outside shooter.

All those things are true at the moment.

But digging deeper, those flaws aren’t as significant as they appear to be, and there are so many other things Scoot brings to the table – some that can be measured and some that can’t.

Staying put at No. 3 and drafting Henderson may prove to be the right call, for both the Trail Blazers organization and for Dame.

Scoot Henderson should 100 percent be in play for the Blazers at No. 3

Scoot isn’t your prototypical small point guard; he could be just what Portland is looking for for three different reasons, assuming he’s still available with the third pick:

  • He may be 6-2, but he’s far from another Anfernee Simons or CJ McCollum

Blazers fans shouldn’t see “6-2 guard” and immediately think Scoot is Simons and CJ McCollum all over again. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Yes, Henderson is 6-2, but that’s where the similarities to Simons and McCollum end.

Scoot is a rock-solid 195 pounds. Simons was listed at 185 entering the draft process, and though CJ was listed at 197, his 197 pounds is not the same as Scoot’s 195. Henderson is stronger and more compact at 19 than McCollum is, even now.

Simons played a post-graduate year at IMG Academy and was able to enter the NBA draft without playing in college or another pro league. McCollum was the opposite – he played four years at Lehigh University in the Patriot League before being drafted at age 22.

Henderson began playing with the NBA G League Ignite when he was 17. While Simons and McCollum were still playing against high schoolers (and CJ was five years away from being an NBA player), Scoot was playing against pros, many of whom had NBA experience. So sure, Scoot’s a 19-year-old entering the NBA draft, but he’s lightyears ahead of almost any other 19-year-old heading to the NBA, especially Ant and CJ.

Scoot has a 6-9 wingspan – the same as fellow top-five prospect Amen Thompson. McCollum clocked in at 6-6.25 at the 2013-14 combine. Henderson’s strength and length make him less of a defensive liability than his 6-2 height makes it seem.

Where Simons and CJ were skilled, score-first small guards, Henderson is an explosively athletic small guard. Where Simons and McCollum sometimes put in effort defensively, Scoot puts in effort everywhere, all the time. He plays with an intensity and aggression that Ant and CJ never have.

He’s not just an athlete, however. His two years of professional basketball have honed his playmaking skills, so he’s able to use that explosive first step to blow past defenders and create shots for teammates better than Simons and McCollum could and can.

Scoot’s a much, much different player, and his skills complement Lillard in ways Simons’ and McCollum’s never did.

So sure, the three are small guards. But this is a whole lot different:

  • Drafting Scoot doesn’t eliminate the possibility of adding win-now help

The Blazers have trade assets beyond the No. 3 pick. Are they less valuable? Sure. Are they still valuable enough to land a veteran player who can fill one or more of the team’s biggest needs? Yes.

If Portland drafts Scoot, it becomes exceedingly likely Simons is traded. A rising 23-year-old combo guard who just averaged more than 20 points per game and the No. 23 pick in the draft is the start of an attractive trade package.

If the Blazers make a deal with the Chicago Bulls to release the protections on their future first-rounders, those can be added to any trade.

Simons and multiple first-round picks, although less valuable than Simons and the No. 3 pick, should still be enough to add someone like Deandre Ayton from Phoenix or OG Anunoby from Toronto – veterans who immediately improve some of the Blazers’ roster flaws.

  • Scoot would be a compromise between the desires of Lillard and the organization

Drafting Henderson means drafting the most NBA-ready prospect in the 2023 class outside of Victor Wembanyama (and even that’s arguable).

If Scoot were drafted two years ago and spent the 2021-22 and ’22-23 seasons as a two-way player honing his skills in the G League who’s now ready for major minutes, would anyone think twice about him being 19? Because that’s exactly what he’s been doing.

He’s not Brandon Miller, who played one season at Alabama. He’s not Amen or Ausar Thompson, who are both a year older and played against Overtime Elite competition which, despite the name, is not elite.

He’s been playing professional basketball since he was 17. He’s physically, mentally, and emotionally mature enough to hit the ground running in the NBA, which is still a question mark for every other prospect in the class, including Wemby.

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Drafting Scoot would be drafting for the present and the future. His game fits next to Lillard’s and he’s ready to play NBA-level basketball right now. He’s also on the exact same timeline as Shaedon Sharpe, giving Portland two potential All-Stars – perhaps All-NBA players – down the line.

Taking Scoot with the third pick also wouldn’t preclude Portland from trading for a high-level veteran to add to the team’s chances of competing next season.

There are so many questions lingering around the Blazers’ offseason decisions with the draft coming up on June 22. Maybe the answer to all of them is more obvious than we think.