Whether or not the hype surrounding Victor Wembanyama is justified remains to be seen. One thing is fairly clear though, he will likely not win the rookie of the year battle in this upcoming NBA season. The case for Scoot Henderson winning rookie of the the year lies in his skill set, his situation landing with the Portland Trailblazers, and his competition.
As a dynamic, albeit slightly undersized point-guard, Scoot’s play style and athletic ability is reminiscent of a young Steve Francis. Though it is easy to be bearish on his upside due to his mediocre shooting, Henderson has the tools to be effective immediately. Scoot possesses a quick, steady handle, explosive first step, and a natural understanding of how to bend defenses. On the other side of the ball, his rangy 6’9″ reach, and active hands, gives him almost limitless potential as a disruptive defender. At just 19, Scoot has a surprisingly well-developed physique, meaning he isn’t likely to get bullied so easily in the NBA. And though his perimeter offense isn’t blowing anyone away just yet, he still does have just enough of a serviceable jump-shot to keep defenses honest. Combining the ability to shoot with an explosive first step, by itself is one of the easiest ways to generate your own points as an NBA player. Regardless of how much upside Henderson ultimately has, his floor is high enough to ensure at least above average production.
Scoot’s Outlook With the Trailblazers
After Damian Lillard‘s trade request, assuming that the Trailblazers actually oblige in a timely manner – then it’s fair to say the Blazers are in full on rebuilding mode. As talented as Lillard is, he is a diminutive guard in the back half of his prime. This means that the Trailblazers will likely get 70 to 80 cents on the dollar for Lillard. With that in mind, though they may not plan on outright tanking, they certainly will not be contending for a title anytime soon. The lack of veteran star talent will likely mean that Henderson will have much more freedom than a typical rookie whose team may have more immediate aspirations of being good. Henderson will have the benefit of having the freedom to make mistakes, and getting the minutes needed to maximally spur his development as a potential NBA star.
Without intending to denigrate the hype train of Victor Wembanyama, he is likely not going to have the splash in the league that many are anticipating at least not on the offensive end. Wembanyama’s likely best case outcome is minimal injury issues, above average defensive acumen, and average offensive output. And with offensive production being more highly valued that defensive production by a considerable margin, Victor’s likelihood of winning the Rookie of the Year award seems vanishingly slim.
Another potential contender is the guy drafted immediately before Scoot, Brandon Miller. Miller will be 21 in November, making him on the older side for a rookie. Miller has great size and decent athletic ability, meaning that he will contribute almost immediately. Miller’s mature and versatile skill set, coupled with his size makes him a safe pick, which is likely why he was chosen ahead of Scoot. That being said, Miller is more of a high floor player than a high ceiling player. Miller will be a nice piece for the Hornets, but he will also be playing alongside the ultra-talented Lamelo Ball, meaning his opportunities will ultimately be limited.
Lastly, we have Chet Holmgren. The top pick of last year’s draft for the Oklahoma City Thunder is coming off a season long injury, making him a contender for the rookie of the year award. But much like Victor, it is unlikely that Chet’s skill set will translate to high level NBA success. Holmgren is another serviceable, high-floor role player. He does not possess a dominate post game, and his perimeter skills are passable, but certainly not elite.
Both in the long and short term, Henderson has the tools, opportunity and upside to have the most impact on the NBA level than any of his contemporaries.