Scoot Henderson's Playmaking | The Friday Screener
Scoot Henderson is one of the most impressive playmakers to enter the NBA in recent years.
Scoot Henderson is one of the most versatile players in the 2023 NBA Draft and would be a surefire first overall pick in nearly any other draft. At 17 years old, Henderson made a landmark decision, deciding to join the G-League Ignite instead of playing one more season in high school and declaring for a college program. Despite being a high school senior, there wasn’t much of a learning curve for Henderson as he faced grown men. This season, Henderson looks just as dominant while also showing more confidence and improved decision-making. He is a superb athlete, disruptive defender, and versatile scorer. What sets Henderson apart from most prospects, though, is the maturity of his playmaking.
In the three full games that Henderson has played, he’s scored at least 25 points. Henderson’s athleticism and scoring will make most of the highlight reels, but he is just as adamant about setting up his teammates as he is about scoring himself. Henderson already has an approach to running an offense that is far more mature than his age would suggest. When it comes to playmaking, Henderson has the trifecta that all NBA teams desire from their point guard: passing accuracy, creativity, and floor awareness. This isn’t a new phenomenon for Henderson either, as he was a brilliant playmaker going against pros at 17.
Here, Henderson uses a dribble handoff to create a runway to the rim (slingshot engaged!). As he bursts across the three-point line, Henderson is even with his defender, so he knows that he has a clear path to the rim, barring a defensive rotation. As Henderson explodes to the rim, the rotation comes, and Henderson contorts his body to carry him out of bounds. Henderson’s only option is to make a kickout to one of the weakside shooters. Since the at-rim defensive rotation came from the low man on the weak side, Henderson knows that there is only one weakside defender remaining. He quickly identifies that the defender has dropped towards the baseline to take away the corner shooter, so Henderson adjusts and fires a pass directly to the shooting pocket of Jaden Hardy on the wing.
That combination of athleticism, recognition, processing, and passing accuracy is incredible for anyone, let alone a 17-year-old. The concern with much of Henderson’s playmaking in his first season with the Ignite, though, was the sustainability of it. It was flashy, creative, and chaotic, but it was also often sped up and out of control. It was the stuff made for highlight tapes, but it still wasn’t overtly convincing that it was conducive to consistently running an NBA offense.
Thankfully, Henderson immediately quashed any of those concerns with his start to this season. He has still shown that rare blend of explosiveness and creativity, but he has also been more measured, composed, and patient. His ability to blend the two styles suggests that he is readying to torture defenses for years to come.
Here, Henderson comes off the screen and instead of bursting to the rim, he simply meanders into the space afforded to him due to the drop coverage. Due to the space created with the screen, Henderson knows he’s in a two-on-one situation and that he just has to wait for Victor Wembanyama to make a decision as Eric Mika rolls to the rim. To give Mika an extra second and a wider lane to roll into, Henderson takes an additional hesitation dribble to his left. This move drags Wembanyama out of the middle of the lane an extra step. Henderson simulates as if he’s going into a pull-up jumper, which gets Wembanyama to commit, before slotting a perfect pocket pass to Mika for the score.
This time, Henderson is in a similar situation as he runs a pick-and-roll toward the empty corner with Efe Abogidi. A solid screen yet again puts Henderson in a two-on-one situation against Wembanyama. As he comes off the screen, Henderson quickly recognizes that Wembanyama is higher in his coverage and that his stance is aggressively shading Henderson to the baseline, so much so that recovering to Abogidi will be difficult. Once Henderson recognizes the passing window, he doesn’t hesitate and threads a perfect bounce pass between the outstretched limbs of both defenders to set up the monster dunk.
Just because Henderson’s playmaking has evolved into more of a dissection and less of a haymaker doesn’t mean that the flashy creativity is completely gone. He’s still an absolute menace with his ability to read and manipulate weakside defenders.
Here, Henderson is in a similar situation to the previous clips as he attacks downhill out of the high pick-and-roll. This time, though, the drop defender is deep toward the rim to take away a lob or layup while forcing a floater or mid-range jumper. Henderson doesn’t seem keen to take a mid-range shot, though, so he is focused on the weak side defender who has rotated to the opposite block. As Henderson enters the lane, he feigns a quick motion that connotes a floater or lob. This subtle move gets the weak side defender to take an extra step toward the rim. I can only imagine that Henderson is quoting Barney Stinson’s “dance for me, puppets, dance!” in his head as he immediately kicks out for the open corner three.
Henderson’s playmaking is a weapon in nearly any situation, be it a read-and-react setting or a set play. Here, Henderson patiently waits on the left wing as his teammates run a series of screens on the weak side. He almost looks bored as he waits for the defense to give him a sliver of an opening. Shareef O’Neal curls off the back screen towards the rim, and the defenders have a slight moment of miscommunication as they both move with the screener, who is relocating to the top of the arc. This momentary lapse is all that Henderson needs, though, as he fires an accurate one-handed pass to set up the layup.
One of the many things that differentiate Henderson from other point guards is his ability and willingness to play off-ball. Even in these situations, Henderson is capable of leveraging his athleticism and scoring gravity to create for others.
Here, Henderson is at the top of the arc while his defender is playing nail defense and exposing a generous driving lane to Henderson. Henderson immediately attacks once he gets the ball, as his defender is a step slow in rotating back. Henderson’s supreme burst easily propels him to the lane, where he forces a Wembanyama rotation. Given Wembanyama’s length, though, Henderson knows that he must get Wembanyama to commit fully before making a pass. Instead of immediately passing to Mika, because Wembanyama would’ve been able to recover to at least contest a shot, Henderson takes full advantage of his two steps to attack Wembanyama and simulate a shot at the rim. Once he gets Wembanyama to commit, Henderson bails on the shot and dumps it off to Mika for an easy dunk.
Henderson is also adept at running off screens, something that diverse NBA offenses often implement to put their premier athletes in space with momentum. Here, Henderson receives a screen and curls towards the lane. In yet another two-on-one situation with Wembanyama, Henderson shows that he’s doing one thing before doing the exact opposite. Henderson takes a diagonal dribble that takes him more toward the right side of the lane to give Mika more space to roll into. Henderson’s jump stop makes Wembanyama hesitate, which essentially takes him out of the play against a player as decisive as Henderson. Henderson slots another perfect bounce pass to Mika, who ends up drawing the foul.
Scoot Henderson will get lauded for his scoring, athleticism, and even his defense, but don’t sleep on the brilliance of his playmaking. He seamlessly unites the worlds of creativity and patience to dissect defenses as he sees fit. He is an illusionist, a puppeteer, a manipulator of the highest order.
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