Scoot Henderson is starting to watch the Harry Potter movies. He can easily explain what inertia is. He can’t understand why one of his friends always seems to beat him when they go online to play Madden.
In his spare time, he also is getting ready for the NBA draft.
As the playoff push starts in the league, so does the draft push for those who will expect to hear their names called by Commissioner Adam Silver this June. Everybody knows French phenom Victor Wembanyama likely will be picked No. 1. There shouldn’t be much mystery about who’s going No. 2, either — with Henderson, an explosive point guard who has been drawing comparisons to Russell Westbrook, the consensus choice.
“I’m just ready,” Henderson said. “I’m just trying to prepare myself for the next level. I feel right there.”
His performance at All-Star weekend probably didn’t hurt his stock. Playing with the G League team in the Rising Stars games, Henderson went through All-Star weekend for the second time — an obvious rarity for a player who has yet to appear in the NBA.
“You see the talent,” said Oklahoma City’s Jalen Williams, who played with Henderson in the Rising Stars event. “There’s a reason why he’s on draft boards as high as he is.”
Henderson has averaged 18.3 points, 6.7 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game for the G League Ignite this season. He flirted with a triple-double in Monday’s win over Iowa: 14 points, nine rebounds and nine assists in just under 29 minutes. He also has averaged about one highlight-reel dunk per game — and at least one question about Wembanyama in interviews since the fall.
There is a mutual respect between the two, who are likely going to be linked for a long time given how the NBA put two exhibitions together between the Ignite and Wembanyama’s French team back in October — a prelude with expectations that Wembanyama will be picked No. 1 in the draft and Henderson No. 2.
“I don’t listen to critics,” Henderson said.
He said in October, and repeated in interviews at All-Star weekend, that there’s no rivalry. Henderson isn’t motivated by Wembanyama and doesn’t view him as an opponent. He’s not even that bothered by nobody projecting that he’s the best player in the draft. He just does the work, believing in the end it’ll be enough.
“There might be a team that might need a leader, need somebody who can talk, somebody who can communicate on the floor,” Henderson said. “I think I can make a big difference.”
The Ignite is designed to help players who aren’t yet draft eligible but didn’t want to follow the one-year-of-college path to get ready for the NBA. Henderson has been with them for two years and has heard plenty of comparisons to top point guards. Derrick Rose’s name comes up a lot. So does Westbrook’s.
It’s high praise for anyone, much less a 19-year-old.
“It’s pretty dope to be compared to,” Henderson said. “But I think I want to flare off into my own self.”
The kid is wise beyond his years already, and that has nothing to do with how — when asked about a certain teammate’s game — Henderson explains the way inertia helps. A body in motion tends to stay in motion unless another force intervenes, and somewhere along the way Henderson learned that helps on drives to the basket and other parts of the game.
“Just science,” Henderson said. “That’s what that is.”
He can also see how he’d fit in with teams headed to the lottery. He studies the young players Houston has, just in case. Same with San Antonio, just in case. He talks about how he’d fit alongside Scottie Barnes in Toronto. And he wouldn’t mind being on a team someday with someone he considers an elite point guard, like Chris Paul or Ja Morant.
Teams with two point guards, he wonders, might be the future.
“Dual backcourt would be crazy,” Henderson said. “Explosive and smart backcourts are cool to me.”
He’s athletic. He’s a thinker. And whether he gets picked No. 1 or No. 2 or No. 60, Henderson is certain that he’ll help some team next season.
“I’m ready,” he said. “I know I’m ready.”
Tim Reynolds is a national basketball writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at treynolds(at)ap.org
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