The UCF forward was hardly a first-rounder before his stunning freshman campaign. Does it warrant a top 5 pick?
Taylor Hendricks is one of the last lottery prospects I’m getting up to speed on ahead of Detroit Pistons‘ first round draft pick on Thursday, and it was easy for me to see why he had such a rapid rise.
I’ve already looked closely at other prospects in his lineup, including Ausar Thompson or Jarace Walker, and I liked a lot about both, especially when it comes to their fit in Detroit under new head coach Monty Williams. That puts Hendricks, who had a sky-high rise during his freshman season at UCF, slightly behind the 8-ball.
That said, even him entering the conversation at No. 5 with the likes of Ausar and Jarace signals just how impressive Hendricks is as a prospect.
The young forward is a bit ahead of his time, standing 6-foot-8.25 without shoes, weighing 213.6 pounds and stretching out for a 7-foot-0.5 wingspan as he scales into the NBA Combine. His athleticism and shot blocking enable him to play any frontcourt position defensively, while his offensive versatility helps his overall package shine.
The most appealing aspect of his offense is the shooting, especially from deep. He finished his only collegiate season shooting 39.4% from three, which is about as good as it gets for his size.
He’s much better off the catch (40.9% on 3.9 attempts per game) than off the dribble (28.0% on 0.7 attempts), which could end up limiting his star upside, but the spot- up numbers are so good that he already has a good foundation to be your second or third option, especially when you consider that he is shooting 40.4% disputed spot-up threes.
Because he played with many older guards, Hendricks was rarely asked to initiate the offense (21.2% usage), but in instances where he is able to adjust to his defender, he has a bit of a bag to reach into using bump steps, power dribbles and the occasional spin move to create space.
While his combination of athleticism, length and coordination make him a sometimes lethal slasher, it should be noted that it’s often fruitless work for Hendricks. He converted just 44.7% of his layup attempts. Compare that to someone like Ausar Thompson, who is three inches shorter and hit 51.2% of his layups.
Because of some of these self-creation issues, Hendricks would be well served playing with playmakers ahead of him on the creator’s depth chart (teams like Detroit at No. 5 with Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey or Indiana at No. 7 with Tyrese Haliburton and Bennedict Mathurin). Many times Hendricks is open and going downhill on a cut, but his teammates are unable to find him. Just improving the level of table setters should have a big positive impact on his production.
Overall, his strengths in that area enable offensive styles like the pick-and-pop, pick-and-roll, including those where he plays the short throw and creates against mismatches and bent defenses.
Opposing teams will worry much more about the defense early with Hendricks rather than the offense because of the havoc he can wreak anywhere.
He’s best as a helper and weak-side rim protector, using his excellent hand-eye coordination to block 1.7 shots per game. game to lead the American Athletic Conference and foul only 2.0 times per game, with at least four fouls in just six of 34 games.
Granted, while he usually does a good job of being in the right position to stop drives and actions, it can sometimes look like he’s thinking the game instead of seeing it. It leaves him a step behind every now and then, a little too late to come. Similarly, he sometimes overestimates his length and speed, playing too low before he has to close high, already too far to effectively do so.
Hendricks has the ability to be a total threat in space and flashes it from game to game, but his effort can wane in and out of each possession. My general philosophy is that it’s at least enough for a high-profile prospect flash elite defensive potential. If I know you can do it, then I am at least confident that you can be coached to do it consistently. Of course, that puts him a few notches below the prospects who consistently bring the effort.
When he brings that effort into space, he proves he’s one of only a few players in the class who can give you possessions at all five positions. He was one of the best isolation defenders in the country, holding opponents to 8-of-23 (34.8%) shooting, allowing .625 points per game. possession for the 70th percentile, according to Synergy.
The more I watched, the harder it became to justify guys like Cam Whitmore and Jarace Walker being ranked ahead of Hendricks. His total package of size, shooting and defense, while not really having a single big question mark compared to the others at that level, is so appealing, especially when Detroit doesn’t need creators.
I’d still prefer Ausar Thompson at the fifth pick because of the star upside, but if you’re looking for a safer top-10 pick, this would be a very safe pick, which I’d understand, especially when you’re on the cusp of trying to win as Detroit is. Hendricks will finish sixth overall on my board.