The Portland Trail Blazers picked guard Scoot Henderson of the NBA G League with the third overall pick in the NBA draft on Thursday night.
The selection complicates things a bit for the Blazers, who already have an All-Star guard in Damian Lillard.
Known for his tenacity on the court, Henderson could be packaged in a trade if Portland pursues a high-profile veteran to join Lillard. Or, he could replace Lillard if the Blazers decided to rebuild. He could even pair with Lillard in Portland’s backcourt.
After the San Antonio Spurs took French teenager Victor Wembanyama with the top pick and the Charlotte Hornets took forward Brandon Miller out of Alabama, Henderson fell to the Blazers with No. 3.
Asked what Portland is getting, Henderson said: “Somebody that’s going to come in and attack the basket every single time, put pressure on the defense and play both sides of the floor. And a winner.”
Henderson, a 6-foot-2 teenager from Georgia who has been compared to Russell Westbrook, spent two years with the G League Ignite. He has also connected with Golden State guard Stephen Curry, who offered Henderson support and resources.
Last season with Ignite, Henderson averaged 17.6 points and team-high 6.5 assists. He also brings defense — something the Blazers have sorely needed. He graduated from high school in Marietta, Georgia, early to become the youngest player ever in the G League.
Henderson, 19, wore a black suit coat bedazzled with rhinestones for the draft.
“I’m young but I’ve got a mature mindset, and that’s to work and that’s to come in and work and make a real impact, not just on the basketball side but in the community,” he said after his name was announced.
Henderson’s full name is Sterling Jewell Henderson. He earned the nickname Scoot when he was a toddler and used to scoot around on the floor. He’s from a basketball family, too. Younger sister, Crystal “Moochie” Henderson, is headed to Georgia State.
With the 23rd pick Thursday night, the Blazers selected forward Kris Murray, twin brother of Sacramento Kings forward Keegan Murray. Kris Murray averaged 20.2 points last season as a junior at Iowa.
The Blazers missed the playoffs this season for the second straight year, finishing 33-49 and in 13th in the Western Conference. That was despite the best efforts of Lillard, who averaged a career-high 32.2 points a game, third-best in the league. But in the end, Portland was plagued by inopportune injuries and inconsistent play.
The season wasn’t without some high points — namely Lillard’s 71-point game. He set the franchise and career record in a late February game against the Houston Rockets. He also finished the game with 13 3-pointers.
Should Portland decide to play Henderson with Lillard, Anfernee Simons’ role in the backcourt would be uncertain. Simons started in 62 games last season, averaging 21.1 points and 4.1 assists.
The team saw a spark in rookie Shaedon Sharpe, the seventh overall pick in the 2022 draft. He averaged 9.8 points in 79 games this season, wowing fans with a number of highlight-reel dunks.
With the starters all shut down at the end of the season when it became clear they couldn’t make the playoffs, Sharpe started in Portland’s final nine games, scoring 20-plus points in all but one of them.
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