The Prospect Overview: Is Scoot Henderson a Better Prospect Than Derrick Rose?
Scoot Henderson has been called "the best point guard prospect since Derrick Rose." Today, Maxwell asks--is he better? If so, what does that mean? PLUS: Expanding Big Board and Quick Hits!
Feature: Scoot Henderson vs. Derrick Rose
There’s no clever hook to this article, just a basketball question. Is Scoot Henderson a better prospect than Derrick Rose was back when he was at Memphis?
While Victor Mania is running wild in the basketball world, Scoot Henderson has simultaneously received a great deal of acclaim while also sliding under the radar in a bizarre sense. If you exclude Victor Wembanyama, Henderson is probably the most compelling draft prospect since Zion Williamson. He’s definitely the most compelling guard we’ve seen in a while. There has been some speculation about who was the last guard prospect better than Henderson. Was it Ja Morant? John Wall? Derrick Rose?
To me, Derrick Rose was the best prospect of that trio. Ja Morant’s best college season came as a sophomore. It’s not his fault that people didn’t catch onto him after his freshman season, but the extra year helped him. John Wall and Derrick Rose were both outstanding, high-flying, exciting guards. I give Rose the edge, though it’s close, largely due to their situations. Wall had more talent and a wider variety of talent around him. Rose’s 07-08 Memphis Tigers squad featured three other future NBA players. John Wall’s 09-10 Kentucky Wildcats team had seven.
So, this begs the question—is Scoot Henderson the best point guard prospect since Derrick Rose? Or is he a better prospect than Derrick Rose? I watched a disgusting amount of old Memphis film to find out. Let’s dive in.
Attacking and Finishing at the Basket
Prospect Derrick Rose moved like a snake. He had oodles of slither, weaving his way through defenders and then springing higher and further than you ever expected when he was ready to attack. He boasted solid footwork and the ability to keep the ball on a string. The man was an acrobat. His body control and leaping ability were a mind-bending combination. He would soar through the air, then contort his body in amazing, unpredictable ways to avoid contact before sending the ball through the basket. What also stood out about Rose was how rarely he needed a screen to get to his spots. Between his speed and rhythm, defenders didn’t stand a chance against him on an island. Per Synergy, 20.3% of his offensive possessions came in isolation vs. 8.9% in the pick-and-roll. Defenders struggled to stay in front of him, and rim protectors were often helpless against his unpredictable but effective finishing package. Despite being given heaps of defensive attention, Rose shot 52.1% on twos as a freshman. Given what offensive spacing looked like back in 2008, that’s beyond impressive. Lastly, Rose had a solid understanding of when not to press the issue. If the paint was too clogged or he wasn’t going to get a good look, he wouldn’t force it, opting to either move the ball or pull it back out.
We have to begin with an obvious caveat that will affect every segment of this article—Scoot Henderson is facing tougher competition than Derrick Rose did. The G League is filled with players who were the best player on their college team or close to it. That is a vital piece of context to keep in mind.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about Henderson’s finishing. It can be downright electric at times. While Rose’s game is predicated more on slither, Scoot’s is based on timing and manipulation. He still has some wiggle to him, and his footwork is good; don’t get it twisted. However, Scoot excels as an attacker for two primary reasons: he’s obscenely fast, and he’s able to play at different speeds. Henderson can blow by a defender and get straight to the rack. He can also speed them up, then slow them down enough to get off balance, and then blow by them the next time around. While some players rely on athleticism, Henderson leverages his athleticism. He’s smart with choosing his driving angle, and he does a wonderful job protecting the ball at the basket, making his shot hard to block. His pump-fake-and-go, catch-and-go, and give-and-go moves are all high-end options due to his potent first step. Like Rose, Henderson has the ability to finish with finesse, but he can also finish with ferocity and violence. He’s been known to rattle rims with powerful dunks in traffic. His strength helps him to finish through contact when he meets it. Another similarity between the two is that they both tend to be a little reliant on their right hand at the cup. An edge I would give to Rose is that he showed more restraint. At times, Henderson can be too determined as a driver and try to force difficult shots at the basket. His 57.1% at the basket ranks in the G League’s 29th percentile, per Synergy. He’s a capable finisher, and he’s certainly hamstrung by the amount of defensive attention he receives, but some of his tougher looks drag him down a tad.
Advantage: Derrick Rose
Playmaking for others
Let’s start off with basic statistics. Rose averaged 4.7 APG to 2.7 TOV, had a usage rate of 26%, an assistant percentage of 30.4%, and a turnover percentage of 16.7%. What stuck out the most about Rose as a passer was his fluidity. He was, and I mean this in a positive way, one of the least “locked-in” players I’ve ever seen. Rose could fly off the floor, be mere inches from the cup with a big man in his way, and go, “eh, I don’t like the look of this, and that guy in the corner is wide open, so I’m just going to sling it to him.” His ability to keep an open mind until the very last second was uncanny. Defenders would have no choice but to commit to him because of his athleticism and finishing polish, and Rose would kick it to the open man once he knew the defender had no chance of recovering. This fluidity was paired with creativity. Nothing was off limits—passes to the corner out of a 180 jump, no-looks to the rolling big man, and behind-the-head whips were all on display. His reads and timing made him exceedingly difficult for defenses to pin down. Where Rose faltered was that he wasn’t always careful. Occasionally, his placement wouldn’t be as accurate as needed. He’d throw long skip passes that didn’t have enough zip on them, leading to turnovers and deflections. As mesmerizing as he could be, he could also be too complacent and careless. He grew in this department as the season progressed (3.1 TOV/game in the first 20 games, 2.3 TOV/game in the next 20), but it was still frustrating. Rose was also prone to overdribbling at times, but that’s a common trait among young lead guards.
The basic numbers: 6.1 APG and 3.4 TOV, 29.4 USG%, 30.0 AST%, and a 16.3 TOV%. The assist and turnover percentages are nearly identical to Rose’s, but Scoot is doing it with a higher usage rate against better opposition. Theoretically, he should be turning it over quite a bit more. He doesn’t, though, because Henderson is one of the most polished players I’ve ever seen at his age. The casual nature of Rose’s passing that could lead to turnovers isn’t present in Henderson’s game. He still makes mistakes, but rarely are they the result of effort, more so his inexperience or absurd defensive pressure. Henderson gets downhill with consistency, and he has a good understanding of how that opens up his teammates. He’s a sharp interior passer, he truly holds the defense hostage when he operates out of a hostage dribble, and his knack for stopping on a dime totally freezes opponents. It feels like he always makes the right type of pass. He’s able to throw long, accurate passes out of the live dribble, and he’s getting better at doing it with both hands. The defense is on edge the second he gets into the mid-range. His maturity allows him to play pick-and-rolls in a variety of ways. He can split the coverage and get right to the rim, force the big to dance with him, or reject the screen and incite havoc that way.
There are few players who can create constant headaches for defenses that maintain Henderson’s level of poise. Often, there is a give-and-take between explosiveness-based creation and recklessness. It’s easy for players to get too sped up, lose control of their handle, or try to thread a needle that doesn’t actually exist. It happens to Henderson sometimes, but not much. One thing I wish Henderson did was to operate with some of that fluidity that Rose had at Memphis. He can be too rigid and determined to finish as opposed to seeing what opens up as he attacks. There aren’t many of those last-second jump passes that Rose put on display. I think this is attainable for Scoot in the future. As he grows more comfortable against high-level opposition and gets more repetitions, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be able to make more last-second reads.
Advantage: Scoot Henderson
Derrick Rose didn’t have the best reputation as a defender throughout his NBA career. For that reason, I was totally stunned to learn (re-learn? I honestly don’t remember how I felt about Derrick Rose’s defensive film at Memphis when I was 17; I was too tied up worrying about whatever girl didn’t want to date me at the time) that college D-Rose could really put the clamps on dudes when he wanted to. During Memphis’s NCAA tournament game against Texas, he had D.J. Augustin in jail. It may not sound like a big deal now, but Augustin was the ninth pick in the 2008 NBA Draft and a consensus All-American. Rose held him to a brutal 4-18 from the field. His quickness prevented him from getting beat, and his springs allowed for some nasty contests, along with a blocked shot. Rose’s stance was truly respectable, and he moved his feet well on the ball. His motor ran high in transition, too, where he’d sprint back on defense and try to meet opponents at the rim. Rose’s speed made him a threat in passing lanes, too. He would routinely pick off lazy passes and generate easy buckets going the other way. Where Rose faltered was with his consistency. At times, more so during his regular season games, he’d be too content to let opponents beat him off the dribble. His effort around screens, on or off the ball, left a lot to be desired. Rarely would he utilize his tools to get around the screen or work to get back into the play after facing contact. He wasn’t super attentive off the ball, and it felt like his 1.2 SPG total was short of what it should have been purely based on his physical gifts.
Henderson can be a legitimate impact defender on a night-to-night basis. His feet at the point of attack, defensive stance, and hand speed make him a formidable opponent. He does a great job of staying in front of his man. While guards below 6’3” are often considered less than ideal from a defensive standpoint, Henderson will be tough to hunt. Part of it is that he’s already in a good place from a strength standpoint, guarding up fairly often in the G League and holding his own. He’s not going to lock down bigs or on the block or anything, but because he doesn’t get moved around easily, 2s and 3s won’t be plowing through him on a routine basis. The other positive element in this respect is his speed and ability to cover ground. Henderson’s strides on rotations are long, so he’s able to utilize every inch of his length and vertical to the fullest extent of his capabilities. Off-ball, Henderson remains attentive to an impressive level. Given his higher usage and youth, it wouldn’t be the end of the world if he got caught snoozing here and there, but that doesn’t happen. He doesn’t get caught unprepared, and he knows where to go when it’s time to rotate. His quickness makes him a threat in passing lanes, and he has a nose for poking the ball loose when the ball handler turns their back to him. Henderson has also managed to alter and block shots at the rim due to his awareness and vertical pop. The biggest thing I’d like to see him do is to play opponents off his chest less often on the ball and utilize his feet more. While Henderson is strong, it’s going to be tougher as he scales up at the next level. It can lead to him being too narrow in his stance and ceding ground to the opponent. At times, it feels like he would be better by playing lower and using his lateral agility to contain the ball handler as opposed to trying to overpower them.
Advantage: Scoot Henderson
Shooting was the biggest area of concern for Derrick Rose coming out of college. He finished his season at Memphis with a free-throw percentage of 71.2% and a three-point percentage of 33.7%. His volume from long range was low, though—he only took 2.7 3PA/game, which, paired with his percentage, means he made less than one per game. His form featured a dramatic lower-body kick, and some of his misses weren’t pretty. The ball would often come out flat, released on a line drive trajectory. As a result, Rose didn’t have a great deal of gravity beyond the arc. While Synergy doesn’t have his entire shooting track record for the season, they do list 80 of his 104 three-point attempts. Of those 80, 10 came off the dribble, and he only connected on one. This allowed teams to sit back on his drives and pick-and-rolls. Rose wasn’t helpless, though. As noted earlier, he was a fine free-throw shooter. While he wasn’t draining pull-ups from beyond the arc, he consistently hit tough mid-range jumpers that indicated he had a degree of touch. Per Synergy, he hit 43.6% of his jump shot twos off the dribble. His three-pointers off the catch gave room for optimism, too—he made 40.3% of those looks. When he could take his time and get set, it was evident there was something to work with. Inside the arc, he was already hitting difficult shots without balance. He just needed time to get it all to gel together. It was fair to have concerns about Rose’s outside shooting, but given his mid-range scoring and capability off the catch, he had upside in this department.
Scoot Henderson’s shooting numbers are eerily similar to Rose’s on the surface. Henderson is also making less than one three per game at the moment, hitting 34.1% of his 2.6 attempts per game. The two are similar at the free-throw line, too, with Henderson slightly edging out Rose there, making 74.1% of his shots at the charity stripe. There are three key caveats here. The first is that Scoot is, as noted earlier, playing better competition. Bigger, stronger, faster opponents are closing out on him than those Rose had to handle. The second is that because Scoot Henderson is playing in the G League, he’s shooting from the NBA three-point line, which is further away. The last is that G League free-throw percentages tend to be lower. Generally, players shoot a higher percentage on their second free throw than their first. In the G League, for most of the game, there is no second free throw—you just shoot one free throw for two points in most instances. Given those factors, it’s safe to assume that in college, Scoot Henderson would project to have a better three-point and free-throw percentage.
The nuts and bolts are better, too. While Rose often took a long time to load up off the catch, Henderson is ready to fire. Though the sample size is small (15 attempts), Henderson has made 40% of his catch-and-shoot threes on the year, per Synergy. He’s grown increasingly comfortable pulling up off the dribble, too. When defenders sag, Scoot is ready to make them pay. Despite loads of defensive attention, he’s shooting a respectable 41.7% on dribble jumper twos this year, per Synergy. His mid-range pull-up is lethal, and it’s aided by his skill as a pick-and-roll ball handler. Between his footwork, balance, and knack for slamming on the breaks, Henderson has a variety of ways to generate space for himself in that area of the floor. The blazing-fast Henderson often manages to go up in a gorgeous straight-up, straight-down motion even if he was operating at top speed mere seconds prior. He’s a remarkable talent in an area of the floor where stars are routinely forced to make difficult shots in big moments. Henderson has already proven respectable enough from NBA distance despite being pretty far off from that a year ago (21.6% in G League play last season). Given his mechanics, mid-range prowess, and developmental track record, I’m buying Henderson becoming at least a league-average shooter in time.
Advantage: Scoot Henderson
The Other Stuff
Both Derrick Rose and Scoot Henderson made respectable impacts on the glass, averaging 4.5 and 4.7 RPG, respectively. Henderson gets the edge here due to the tougher competition. Another similarity is that both Prospect Rose and Scoot move well without the ball. Rose found opportunities to cut, but he also gave his teammates space when needed. Henderson also operates without the ball more often than outsiders might think, and he does well with it. His speed makes him a nightmare as he charges into handoffs, but defenders can’t top lock him, either, because he’ll just go to the basket. His timing, savvy, and burst allow him to get open. While they both have big moments on their resume, I personally lean toward Scoot Henderson’s competitive fire over Derrick Rose’s stoic “silent assassin” demeanor. Henderson’s nature on the floor sets a standard, and teammates feed off his energy.
Advantage: Scoot Henderson
I went into this experiment with an open mind. When Derrick Rose was at Memphis, I didn’t have the same knowledge of basketball as I do now. As a result, I was going in with a relatively blank slate. In the end, I found Scoot Henderson to be the better prospect in most relevant areas and the better prospect as a whole. The real question now is…what does that mean? Basketball is different now. I should come away more impressed with today’s prospects than the ones from fifteen years ago.
The game has advanced. There is also a much greater level of All-Star and sub-All-Star level talent in the NBA. Offensive schemes have become more intricate and complex. Conversely, defenses have evolved, and responsibilities on that end of the floor have become more demanding. The floor is spaced better. Shooting and size have become more important. Everyone is bigger, and more players are capable shooters. When Rose came into the league, 6’3” was big for a point guard. Now, Scoot Henderson enters a league where 6’2” is diminutive for a lead option. Not only is three-point percentage more relevant in a more spaced-out game, but shooting volume carries more weight. Coaching strategy has also taken a large step forward, with teams consistently picking on struggling opponents and rabidly hunting mismatches. The learning curve has become steeper, with more young players needing to spend time in the G League. While Scoot Henderson, on paper, is a better player than Derrick Rose was at the same age, he is going to be thrown into a tank with more sharks in it.
For Scoot Henderson to accomplish what Derrick Rose did during his first few years in the league will be exceedingly difficult. The idea of a player winning an MVP Award and leading their team to a one-seed on a rookie contract in today’s NBA is difficult to wrap my head around. Think about how good Ja Morant is, how well the Grizzlies have performed as an organization, and the fact that he hasn’t matched Rose’s marks in those departments. Standing out as a player and winning have both never been more difficult in the NBA than they are now.
This experiment ultimately led me to one conclusion above all else: Scoot Henderson is a truly special talent. I don’t know if he can leapfrog what Derrick Rose did in his first few years in the league, or if he can match what Ja Morant has accomplished, but we’re getting to witness an unbelievable young player grow before our eyes. He’s a phenomenal athlete, he’s exceptionally disciplined, and he’s cerebral. There is an outcome where he can become the best player on a title team with the right talent around him. Regardless of who you want to compare him to, you have to admit that prospects of this caliber don’t come around often. I came away from this with a newfound appreciation for what a rare talent Scoot Henderson is, and I’m going to cherish every second of him this season. We don’t know when the next guy like this is going to come down the pipeline—it might be another fifteen years.
The Expanding Big Board
Welcome to The Expanding Big Board! Every week, a new player is added to the board. Once a player is added, they cannot be removed. The current ranking is listed first, with last week’s ranking in parenthesis.
1. Victor Wembanyama (1)
2. Scoot Henderson (2)
3. Ausar Thompson (3)
4. Brandon Miller (4)
5. Jarace Walker (10)
Jarace Walker, I doubted you for too long.
Maybe doubted is the wrong word, but I’m generally not a believer in safe floors. In spite of Walker’s high feel on both ends, passing ability, and defensive skill, I worried about if he had enough offensive firepower to truly stick as a starter in a wide array of environments. Walker has become impossible to deny, though. He had some rough outings against Temple and Tulane, but otherwise, he’s been rolling since the start of the new year. In 2023, he’s averaging 17.4 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.5 SPG, and 0.8 BPG, with shooting splits of 53.5/46.7/58.6. This recent offensive explosion has shown how much higher his ceiling is than I’d previously thought. Walker has been reliably finding teammates while finding more ways to assert his will on the game. He’s now shown at the college level that he can scale up or down in role to contribute to winning. While I wish he was a better free throw shooter and off-the-dribble shooter, Walker fills all the gaps, hits the open man, and is reliable off the catch from distance. Add in his ability to guard up and down the positional spectrum, and he can fit in anywhere.
6. Cam Whitmore (5)
The Cam Whitmore experience continues to be tumultuous. He’s found himself in foul trouble and struggling to contain quicker guards in crunch time. While his efficiency has come along, his overall performance waxes and wanes to concerning degrees, especially on the defensive end. There’s still plenty of time for him to rise as high as three.
7. Amen Thompson (6)
8. Nick Smith Jr. (7)
9. Jett Howard (8)
10. Keyonte George (9)
11. Anthony Black (11)
12. Cason Wallace (14)
13. Brice Sensabaugh (13)
14. GG Jackson (12)
We have some movement in this part of the board. Cason Wallace has remained a solid and consistent complementary force. Brice Sensabaugh has hit a skid in some ways. While his overall efficiency level is still high, his playmaking has faded a bit, and he’s still having a hard time defensively. GG Jackson takes a tumble here. I want to be clear that this isn’t related to his controversial Instagram video in which he was critical of his role, teammates, and the South Carolina coaching staff. Jackson is young, and I’m never in a place to criticize anyone’s maturity, given what I was like at that same age. My bigger concern is with his production and lack of development throughout the season. While defenses devote a lot of attention to him, Jackson remains predictable. He’s too east-west and not north-south enough as an attacker. He’s 33.3% from the field and 29.1% from the field in conference play. If that can’t get him to go downhill more and settle for jumpers less, that worries me. It doesn’t feel like the game has slowed down for him at all from a passing standpoint. Ultimately, scouting is about projecting a player forward. What GG Jackson can become remains tantalizing—he’s big, he’s athletic, he has some shake to him, and he should be able to cover multiple positions. But it’s harder to project everything coming to fruition when improvement isn’t showing itself throughout a season. His shot falling less consistently makes an initial role projection more difficult, making his fit and situation more crucial to his success.
15. Jalen Hood-Schifino (unranked)
Jalen Hood-Schifino, welcome to the party!
I wrote about Jalen Hood-Schifino in-depth before the start of the college season. Since then, I’ve had some concerns while also being vindicated in a few areas.
My biggest worry with JHS is his lack of high-end athleticism. He’s only registered three dunks and two blocks on the season, both common indicators of NBA-level leaping ability. On top of that, he’s been a subpar rim finisher, converting only 51% of his shots at the basket in the halfcourt, per Synergy. He doesn’t provide a ton of rim pressure, either.
The good news is that those blocks and dunks have all come in recent weeks. Hood-Schifino was dealing with a back injury that sidelined him for a bit of time. Since then, he’s been moving better and getting off the floor easier. At 6’6” with long arms, JHS has the smarts and length to compensate on defense and won’t be a hunting target at the next level.
Offensively, his feel is off the charts. While his assist-to-turnover ratio of 4.3-to-2.8 isn’t the greatest, it understates his capabilities. Indiana is 342nd in Division I in three-point attempts per game, so he’s often operating on a cramped court without snipers to spray the ball out to around him. Non-JHS players on Indiana combine to attempt 13.4 threes per game. As a result, defenses truly collapse on him when he goes downhill. Additionally, watching through his turnovers, many of them aren’t truly his fault. He’s creative, so he’ll deliver the ball at a unique angle only for it to bounce off the player’s hands because he wasn’t anticipating it. With better shooters and teammates more familiar with his unorthodox passing stylings, his assists would be up, and his turnovers would be down.
Coming into the year, there were massive concerns about Hood-Schifino as a shooter. While he’s still only 68.9% from the line, he’s hitting 41.2% of his 3.2 threes per game and 38.9% of his long twos, per BartTorvik. This isn’t a stunning revelation, as in high school, he always took a healthy diet of threes and was a prolific mid-range shot-maker. I don’t know that he’ll hit that clip in the NBA; to be honest, I’d likely bet against it. But he should be able to respectably hit threes off the catch and dribble.
Hood-Schifino is a wonderful connector piece. He’s the straw that stirs the drink. I envision him becoming something along the lines of late-career Shaun Livingston, a funky playmaker with a high level of feel that can function alongside anyone.
-Providence guard Devin Carter has the makings of an interesting prospect. He’s not a 2023 guy, but he has a chance for next year and should definitely be in the mix after his fourth year. The son of long-time NBA vet Anthony Carter, Devin is a nasty defender. The 6’3” guard nabs 1.8 SPG, and he blocks shots better than you’d think, tallying 1.1 BPG. He stays in front of the ball handler well, he has lightning-quick hands, and he reads the opposing offense well. The dude is straight-up tough. He absorbs contact, drives through it, and doesn’t let anyone through him. Offensively, he needs to continue to see more as a playmaker. While he’s only a 32% three-point shooter, he’s improved over the last year while increasing his volume. If he can reliably make the right passing read and get the three-point numbers up, there’s an NBA path for him down the road.
-In a world that is so thirsty for wing players, it surprises me that I haven’t seen Penn State’s Seth Lundy receive much love yet. The 6’6”, 220-pound senior has a strong build that is NBA-ready from a physicality standpoint. With a career STL% of 1.7 and BLK% of 2.5, he ticks defensive boxes. Lundy is easily the best defender for the Nittany Lions, utilizing his strength and footwork to limit opposing players. He’s a tremendous shooter, too, converting 44.8% of his triples on 6.1 3PA/game. Defenses can’t ignore him on the perimeter, and he can hit off movement. He knows how to position himself open, and he’s electric off the catch. While he doesn’t offer much in terms of playmaking, he can drive to the basket and finish when chased off the line. He’s not a true connector due to his limited passing, but his shooting and defense could enable him to carve out a roster spot.
-I figured now that the temperature of the conversation has cooled down, it’s a good time to air my Grant Nelson thoughts. The North Dakota State junior had social media going wild a few weeks back. Are you prepared for a TAKEQUAKE?! I don’t love him, but I think he’s relatively interesting. Spicy, right? At 6’10”, Nelson is very large, and there’s a lot of benefit to that when you move as well as he does. He has solid feet laterally, even if his technique isn’t always perfect. Offensively, he can put it on the floor. Nelson has a few counter moves, nice shake, and good balance for his size. He gets off the floor well, finishing 71.2% of his shots at the rim, and he has the propensity to rattle the rim. Though he’s a 26.6% three-point shooter on the year, the mechanics are clean, and there’s definitely a world where he becomes a solid outside shooter. My concerns are about his fit as a role player. Nelson gets bad tunnel vision and forces some ugly shots. NDST doesn’t have much in the way of guard play or shooting, and it exposes Nelson’s limited ability to create for others. If the shot isn’t there, he’s not a reliable connector, and he’s coming in too thin to play as an NBA 5, so his initial fit is shaky. A team taking him this year would need to be patient with his development. There are worse fliers to take than an athletic, 6’10” big man with touch and potential switchability, but it feels like a lot of things would have to go right (improved defensive technique, adding size while maintaining mobility, shooting consistency, and passing awareness) in order for him to be a meaningful contributor on a winning team. I’m intrigued to see how he finishes out the year. Given his buzz, testing the draft waters would make sense. If he performs well during the combine events, he could really boost his perception and erase some of those concerns while playing alongside better talent. He’s not Top 60 for me, but I wouldn’t fault anyone who has him there.
-I owe a tip of the hat to our own Nathan Grubel on this next one. Wichita State’s Jaykwon Walton might be a true deep sleeper. The 6’7” forward has had a tumultuous college career. Ranked 75th in the 2019 RSCI Top 100, Walton barely saw the floor during two seasons at Georgia due to injuries and illness. From there, he transferred to Shelton State, an Alabama JuCo, where he put himself back on the map. Now in his fourth college season for the Shockers, Walton is showing why he had so much high-major interest coming out of high school. He has a good frame and looks the part, getting off the floor with ease and covering ground well defensively. He’s a pretty attentive defender, even if his numbers (0.7 SPG, 0.3 BPG) don’t pop off the page. Offensively, he’s an inside-out threat. He uses his power to finish effectively at the rim (72.4% in the halfcourt, per Synergy). Walton has a pretty shooting stroke, too, knocking down 37.8% of his threes on the year. Even better from a scalability standpoint, he’s hit 43.6% of his long-range shots off the catch this season, per Synergy. A 6’7” forward with a pro body, shooting touch, and finishing ability who may have untapped potential due to his limited experience is an interesting flier.
-Dereck Lively II has been reasserting himself in the first round conversation. The Duke freshman had an absurd 14-rebound, eight-block performance against UNC over the weekend. His rim protection has kicked into high gear, as he’s now boasting a 14.1 BLK% on the year and swatting 2.3 shots in 17.4 minutes per game. Despite a low-maintenance offensive role, Lively has six assists to only one turnover in his last five games, a testament to his decision-making. My biggest gripe with Lively had been his subpar efforts on the glass. But during this recent five-game stretch, he’s averaged 8.4 RPG, with 4.0 of those coming on the offensive boards. He’s playing with a newfound aggressiveness. I hope Lively keeps it up because this version of him is unbelievably exciting to watch.
-Throughout this cycle, I feel like I’ve been more in on Creighton’s Trey Alexander as a guy who could go in this year than the consensus. He’s been stellar in big moments. In their recent outing against Villanova, he hit two big free throws and poked the ball loose on the other end in crunch time. Alexander has improved drastically from last season to this one. Last season, he shot 28.1% from distance on 1.8 3PA/game. This year, he’s 40.4% on 4.1 3PA/game. He always passed the eye test, and his career 82% from the charity stripe was always a reason to buy in. Alexander has gotten better at the rim, too. After finishing 47.4% of his shots at the rim last year, he’s up to 62.5% this year, per Synergy. Alexander doesn’t pressure the basket, but he’s been more careful of his angles at the cup to avoid opposing bigs, better compensating for his lack of vertical pop. Since the turn of the calendar, he’s averaging 3.0 assists to 0.7 turnovers per game. He’s a pesky, engaged defender, too. In totality, Alexander profiles to be an intriguing complementary guard. He’s a selfless player who can operate with or without the ball and provide resistance on the other end.