Blazers take Scoot Henderson with the No. 3 pick in the 2023 NBA draft

Tim BontempsESPNJune 22, 2023, 8:24 PM ET6 minute reading

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NEW YORK — After weeks of speculation over a potential trade ahead of the draft The Portland Trail Blazers stood pat and selected G League Ignite guard Scoot Henderson with the third pick in the NBA draft on Thursday night.

Before the draft, Henderson and Alabama forward Brandon Miller went back and forth as the No. 2 prospects behind French-generation big man Victor Wembanyama, who was taken No. 1 overall by the San Antonio Spurs.

Ultimately, the Charlotte Hornets went with Miller with the second pick, leaving the Blazers to take Henderson, who will now join a burgeoning young core that includes last year’s seventh overall pick, Shaedon Sharpe, and 24-year-old guard Anfernee Simon’s.

Henderson said he had no problem being selected third and not second.

“Not at all,” he said. “I’m glad to see Brandon go there. I’m pretty sure it suits him well. That’s how I move. I move with love. I’m not mad that I didn’t go 2, or I didn’t. go 1. I’m blessed to go 3 and be here with my family with me.”

Rounding out the top five of Thursday’s draft were Amen Thompson, who went No. 4 to the Houston Rockets, and Ausar Thompson, who went No. 5 to the Detroit Pistons. The identical twin brothers, who played together as part of the Overtime Elite program, are the first siblings to go in the top 5 of the draft since the 1976 ABA-NBA merger.

Henderson expressed excitement at the prospect of playing with superstar guard Damian Lillard, whose name has been floated in trade discussions over the past few weeks. Blazers general manager Joe Cronin said his goal is to pair the players together.

“I would say my goal is to keep them both,” Cronin said. “I would love to see Dame retire with a Trail Blazer. I have no desire to trade him. I really hope this works out here. And I think you can tell how excited I am for Scoot Henderson . He has a chance to be a special player in this league.”

Lillard, who turns 33 on July 15, may see talk increase in the wake of Portland hanging on to the third pick and adding another young player instead of trading it to add a veteran in an effort to improve immediately.

Lillard, a seven-time All-Star who arrived in Portland as the No. 6 pick in 2012, is coming off arguably his best season, averaging a career-high 32.9 points, 7.3 assists and 4.8 rebounds. But the Blazers still missed the playoffs for the second straight season after reaching the postseason in each of the previous eight campaigns.

“I’m definitely hoping to get to play with Dame,” Henderson said. “Special talent, special guard. One of my favorites to watch, especially on film. Just to find out how he moves off the court as well. Yeah, it would be cool to play with him.”

At 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, Henderson, 19, is the prototypical point guard prospect. He spent the past two seasons playing for the G League Ignite, the NBA’s developmental team in the G League, averaging 16.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and 6.5 assists in 19 regular season games this past season. He also averaged 16.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.5 assists in 17 games over the past two seasons in Showcase Cup games, the G League’s regular season tournament.

Henderson said his experience in the G League gave him a leg up on other prospects.

“I’m the most prepared player in the draft,” he said. “The fact that I went there for two years just taught me so much. On the court as well, but a lot of things off the court. I learned how to be a pro off the court. Just so much freedom and just trying to find what to do. I found the hobbies that I like. Ignite definitely showed me a lot of things that I wouldn’t get anywhere else. I’m blessed that I did the two years that I did and I grew so much of it.”

After Arkansas guard Anthony Black went to the Orlando Magic with the sixth pick, the Indiana Pacers and Washington Wizards traded lottery picks. The Pacers selected French forward Bilal Coulibaly with the No. 7 pick, then traded him to the Wizards for Houston forward Jarace Walker. The Wizards sent two future second-round picks to the Pacers in the deal, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Utah took Central Florida forward Taylor Hendricks with the ninth pick, marking the first time UCF has had a player taken in the first round, before another trade saw the Oklahoma City Thunder trade up the Dallas Mavericks, who moved from the 12th pick to No. 10 to take Kentucky guard Cason Wallace. Oklahoma City also took forward Davis Bertans, who is owed $17 million through the 2023-24 season and has a $5 million partial guarantee on his contract through the 2024-25 season, to complete the deal. Dallas gets 12th pick Dereck Lively II, the center from Duke.

Orlando used its second lottery pick with the 11th pick to take Michigan forward Jett Howard, son of longtime NBA forward and current Michigan coach Juwan Howard, while Toronto selected Kansas guard Gradey Dick with the 13th pick.

With the final pick in the lottery, the New Orleans Pelicans selected UConn guard Jordan Hawkins, who helped lead the Huskies to their fifth national championship in April.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night was the fall of Villanova forward Cam Whitmore. Projected as the eighth pick in the draft by ESPN’s Jonathan Givony, Whitmore slipped to 20th, where he was selected by the Rockets with their second first-round pick of the night.

Late in the first round, there were two more trades involving draft picks. The Mavericks acquired the 24th pick from the Sacramento Kings to take center Richaun Holmes, a move that gives Sacramento a large chunk of extra cap space for free agency. The pick allowed Dallas to draft Olivier-Maxence Prosper, a late-rising forward from Marquette.

Then, after getting the 25th pick from Memphis as part of the epic three-team deal of Kristaps Porzingis and Marcus Smart completed Wednesday night, the Boston Celtics traded the pick to Detroit, who took Houston guard Marcus Sasser. The Celtics eventually received multiple second-round picks as part of this deal and subsequent deals the team made early in the second round.

Notable second-round picks included Eastern Michigan’s Emoni Bates to Cleveland at No. 49 and Kansas State’s Keyontae Johnson to Oklahoma City at No. 50.

In two seasons in college, first at Memphis and then with the Eagles, Bates showed flashes of the talent that made him the first high school sophomore to win the Gatorade National Player of the Year Award, but also dealt with injuries and problems off the field.

Johnson was named the 2023 Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, an honor he earned two seasons after he collapsed on the field while playing for Florida in a December 2020 game and spent three days in a medically induced coma. He was diagnosed with a heart condition but was eventually cleared to play again and starred at Kansas State.

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