Should Scoot Henderson Be the No. 1 Pick in the NBA Draft?
There has been little doubt, for almost three years, who will be the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. French center Victor Wembanyama, 7-foot-3, is widely regarded as the best pro prospect since LeBron James was the No. 1 pick in 2003 out of St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio.
But for just as long as Wembanyama has been projected as the No. 1 pick, the No. 2 pick has seemingly been locked up as well. For as long as Wembanyama has been tagged at No. 1, point guard Scoot Henderson, a Georgia native who has been playing the NBA G-League Ignite for the last two seasons, has been tagged at No. 2.
Our fascination with both players is still in its infancy, but we got a taste of what's to come when they squared off in exhibition games in October 2022 — and while we know plenty about Wembanyama, we still don't know near as much about Henderson.
It's enough to make you wonder ... if you're good enough to be the No. 2 pick, shouldn't you be considered for the No. 1 pick as well?
How Sterling Became Scoot
Born on Feb. 3, 2004, in Marietta, Georgia, Sterling "Scoot" Henderson got his nickname when he was just a baby. As the second-youngest of seven siblings growing up with parents Chris and Crystal Henderson, he was nicknamed "Scoot" or "Scoota" by his family for how quickly he would move along the floor when he was just a tike.
Scoot's family was about one thing — basketball — with his father running a training facility for basketball players in Marietta called Next Play 360. Three of his older sisters played Division I basketball; Diamond played at Syracuse while Onyx and China both played at Cal State Fullerton. His younger sister, Moochie, is one of the top prospects in the nation for the Class of 2023.
It's Scoot, however, who has the opportunity to transcend the game.
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Growing Up Idolizing Kobe Bryant
There was only one basketball player who captured the heart of a young Scoot Henderson — the late, great Kobe Bryant. If you watch Henderson's game, the two aren't very similar other than being guards. Bryant was 6-foot-8. Henderson is 6-foot-2.
The best parts of what Henderson took from Bryant's game bubble underneath the surface and pertain to work ethic, drive and focus. Henderson began waking up before 5 a.m. to go through workouts, just like his idol.
One of Bryant's greatest quotes came when he talked about a perceived "debt" he felt to fans who came to see him play. "What about someone who saves up their money to come watch me play, just one time?" Bryant asked. "What about that person? I feel like I owe it to them to give it my all."
In a profile of Henderson by The Ringer's Mirin Fader, author of the bestselling biography about Giannis Antetokounmpo, Henderson cited Bryant's perceived debt to the fans as the thing he admired most about the Hall of Famer.
A Basketball Legend Grows in Georgia
Henderson joined his older brother, C.J., on the basketball team at Kell High School in Marietta as a freshman, coming off the bench. As a sophomore, Scoot became the team's star and led them to the Class 5A state semifinals, including a bravura, 49-point performance in a 92-91 overtime win over Miller Grove High in the first round of the state tournament in which he hit the game-winning shot.
This is the point at which there was no stopping Scoot's forward momentum. He was named Class 5A Player of the Year by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and tried to accept an offer to play pro basketball in China at just 15 years old, but his parents made him turn it down.
As a junior, he led Kell to the Class 6A state championship game and was named Class 6A Player of the Year. And his next move would change basketball as we know it.
The Youngest Pro Baskeball Player in U.S. History
Henderson was no stranger to the rigors of Division I basketball thanks to having three siblings who had already gone through the process by the time he became a consensus five-star recruit at Kell High as part of the Class of 2022.
In truth, that meant Henderson understood what a thankless undertaking playing college basketball could be — intense academic and athletic demands with no financial reward for yourself but big paydays for the institution you wore the jersey for.
On May 21, 2021, Henderson shocked the basketball world by not only announcing he would reclassify to the Class of 2021 and graduate early but that he would also be signing with the NBA G-League Ignite on a two-year, $1 million contract that would allow him to be paid to play professionally until he was eligible to enter the NBA Draft in 2023.
At just a shade over 17 years and 3 months old, Henderson was now the youngest professional basketball player in U.S. history.
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Playing Against Grown Men ... and Killing 'Em
The NBA G-League Ignite is a haven for high-level high school players who don't want to travel overseas to earn money in their one mandated year after their scheduled high school graduation and before they are eligible for the NBA Draft.
It's proven to be a haven for future NBA draft picks, producing four first-round picks in the last two years, including 2021 No. 2 overall pick Jalen Green. For Henderson, it would mean being with the team for two years because of his age when he joined the team.
Playing against competition sometimes 10 years older than him, Henderson had 31 points, six rebounds and five assists in just his second game and played in the 2022 Rising Stars Challenge at NBA All-Star Weekend, where he faced off against some of the NBA's best rookies. In his first season of pro basketball, Henderson averaged 14.7 points, 4.8 assists and 4.6 rebounds in 11 games.
Going Head-to-Head With Victor Wembanyama
One thing that's been an undeniable fact about the NBA going back to when the late David Stern took over as commissioner in 1984 ... they never miss an opportunity to market their product.
Such was the case when the league set up a pair of exhibition games in October 2022 putting French professional team Metropolitans 92 and projected 2023 No. 1 overall pick Victor Wembanyama against the G-League Ignite and Henderson.
In one of the most-watched exhibition games in NBA history, Henderson shined. In the first game, he had 28 points, nine assists and five rebounds in a 122-115 win by the G-League Ignite, while Wembanyama finished with 37 points. Henderson exited the second game in the first quarter with a bone bruise in his knee as the G-League Ignite lost, 112-106.
Is Scoot Henderson Marketable to the Masses?
It's safe to say Scoot Henderson isn't a household name yet — unless your household is solely made up of hardcore basketball fans and draftniks.
Becoming a professional basketball player is one thing. Becoming a professional basketball player who your grandma knows and sells his own signature shoe line is another, and that's the type of fame Henderson is shooting for.
We got our first clue as to what kind of trajectory Henderson might have in June 2022 when he signed his first major endorsement deal with the shoe-brand Puma. It's a reported five-year deal that starts with Henderson being paid an annual seven-figure salary that could stretch into eight figures. It's not a great sign that Puma was the best offer on the table for Henderson as far as a shoe deal — in that game, you're either with Nike or Adidas, or you're Steph Curry with Under Armour. And that's pretty much it.
What Does the No. 2 Overall Pick Get Paid?
The NBA has created a model for its high-level draft picks that has now been copied by the NFL and MLB in which their is a predetermined first contract for the top picks — a system specifically created to protect teams who were overpaying for high picks who turned out to be busts.
For the NBA and Henderson's likely spot at No. 2 in the 2023 NBA Draft, scheduled for June 22, 2023, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, that means when he's picked, the contract won't require negotiations.
While the final number isn't set in stone yet, it will be very close to what the No. 2 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft received — Oklahoma City's Chet Holmgren received a four-year, $44.2 million deal. It's important to remember that the first extension for rookies in the NBA can happen with a five-year extension after three seasons, which could be worth upwards of $250-$300 million to a player like Henderson.
NBA Players Similar to Scoot Henderson
The last few years in the NBA have seen the onset of a new type of dominant player — the shooting guard who's not necessarily the ideal height but has such stunning athleticism it doesn't matter.
Mainly we're talking about Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant, who seems to be the prototype for what kind of player Scoot Henderson can be in the NBA. The thing that Henderson and Morant most have in common? "Trying to bury their opponents with ferocious dunks," according to The Ringer's NBA Draft expert Kevin O'Connor.
Well, when you put it that way.
Is There Any Way Scoot Henderson Goes No. 1 Overall?
The short answer to if Scoot Henderson has a chance of going No. 1 overall in the 2023 NBA Draft ... no.
We aren't going to see a team turn its back on the chance to draft a player like French center Victor Wembanyama, who is looked at as a generational prospect. If we're being honest, there's now actually competition for Henderson to go at No. 2 overall in the form of 6-foot-9, freshman small-forward Brandon Miller at the University of Alabama.
Miller's stock has been on the rise throughout the 2022-23 college basketball season, and if he can quickly resolve some questions about character issues, he may overtake Henderson as the No. 2 pick in the draft.