Portland Trail Blazers Season-In-Review – Let’s Talk About Scoot Henderson

Jason Poulsen | Oregon Sports News

To quote previously rumored to be Vice-Presidential Candidate Aaron Rogers: “Five letters here, just for everybody out there in [Blaz]erland: R-E-L-A-X.  Relax.  [He’s] going to be fine.”

Four basic boxes need to be checked for an NBA player to deliver on their potential.  These Determining Factors are as follows:

  1. Ability – talent, but also a demonstrative level of skills, however unrefined they may be.  The more unrefined the skills, the more evaluators have to lean into their potential & raw talent.
  2. Availability – this often is referred to as the best ability cause it really doesn’t matter how talented a player is if they can’t get & stay on the court, i.e. Greg Oden.
  3. Opportunity – while experience (actually playing) is the best teacher, being put into optimal positions by coaches is 2nd only to ability as a determining factor, if availability is assumed.  This also is inclusive of their work ethic, their willingness to put the time in to refine their skills, to then seize the opportunities they’re afforded.
  4. Confidence – while self-explanatory, the more unshakable, the better.  The more irrational their self-belief is, the better they’re able to respond to adversity.  And their ability to respond to adversity is strongly correlated to the work they’ve put in.  They can always trust in how hard & smartly they’ve worked, especially when lacking opportunity or facing adversity, believing the opportunity &/or results will come if they just stay after it.  This is them trusting in their process.

Scoot Henderson solidly checked all but one of these boxes in Year 1. His Confidence was obviously shaken. You don’t set out to contend for Rookie of the Year (ROY), struggle to the degree that he did, and be completely unaffected by it. And I’m not even talking about the poor perimeter shooting and turnovers, which I anticipated.

ROYs typically don’t start a little over half of their games. While Scoot did begin the season as the starter, he just wasn’t ready. Going from G-Leaguer to NBA starter proved to be too big of a leap for him. And frankly, that’s OK! While Henderson’s talent was/is tantalizing, perhaps this even should’ve been expected.

What’s pretty evident is that Scoot To My Lou expected quite a bit more of himself.  He planned to hit the ground running at full speed, but the season began with some light trotting.  The disparity between his expectations and his actual performance gave rise to a “hump.”

In his exit interview, he expounded on what he learned about himself:

I learned that I can get over the hump,” he said. “I learned that I don’t have to listen to whatever people are saying. That I’m strong and that I have my team with me the whole time. That I’m a young point guard, but that’s not gonna affect who I am as a person. I just learned that I’m a strong individual, and I knew that already.

We’ll find out soon enough, perhaps even as soon as next season, just how strong he is and how irrational his self-belief is.

I think Blazers’ Brass recognizes how crucial having a bounce-back season will be for Henderson’s development.  I don’t know how else to explain their curious decision to sit him for the last game of the season.  I know an injured/sore hip was cited as the reason, but Scoot certainly didn’t seem impeded against the Rockets the game prior, having arguably his best game of the season.  This had everything to do with sending him into the offseason on the highest note possible.  (Well, this, and draft lottery shenanigans, with sitting Ayton as well being the tell.)

This was the Brass’s way of bolstering Scoot Henderson’s Confidence.  For Scoot To My Lou, Confidence is King, the key to fully unleashing his potential.

But Henderson certainly is not alone in this struggle.  Confidence can ebb and flow, as it did for an Oklahoma City (OKC) Thunder player this season.  But why should we care about said player, or the OKC Thunder, for that matter?

After the season OKC just had, I suspect they will become the model for all rebuilding teams to emulate.  The good news, as I pointed last time out, is the Portland Trail Blazers are well positioned to do just this.

Why, oh why, would they want to?  Let’s take a moment to rap about the Thunder’s historic accomplishments this season:

If the ode to a Trail Blazers team of seasons past doesn’t make the OKC Thunder’s rebuild worthy of emulation for Portland, I don’t know what will.  At least the Cosmos agrees!

Going into this season, Josh Giddey was an ascending player with considerable promise.  Without knowing how Chet Holmgren was going to hold up over the season due to him missing his entire rookie year with a foot injury, Giddey and Jalen Williams were poised to compete to be 2nd in OKC’s pecking order behind Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (SGA).

Then November happened.

Josh Giddey was accused of having sex with a high school junior.  For the scope of this article, I’m not going to weigh in on Giddey’s guilt or innocence.  I will say that In mid-January, the Newport Police Department concluded its investigation and opted not to charge Josh Giddey with a crime.  However, to my knowledge, the NBA has yet to conclude its own investigation, and this could always play out further in the civil arena.

In the court of public opinion, however, his guilt was assumed, and the trolls came out in droves, especially on social media, while also making their presence felt at Thunder games, particularly away. Giddey, no doubt, was hearing all about it, and the trolls, along with the circumstance itself, were obviously getting to him. His Confidence was shaken, which serves as the full circle moment that brings us back to the scope. Or is it Scoot?

Josh Giddey’s play on the court, not his alleged deplorable actions off it (to be crystal clear), provides us with an excellent case study into the central role Confidence can play as a Determining Factor.  Not coincidentally, Scoot Henderson currently projects, roughly speaking, to be the Blazers’ Giddey, with Anfernee Simons their SGA and Shaedon Sharpe their Jalen Williams.  (Just peddling a wee bit more hope from my last article.)

Now, let’s move on to the case study, courtesy of Nathan Aker of FanNation’s Inside The Thunder.  But don’t worry, it’ll be short!

“[Josh Giddey] regressed in nearly every facet of his game from the season prior and looked out of sorts night in and night out, and it worstened into December, then January and February. From December to February, he’d make a near two-point regression in his point average, and dock his shooting percentage by 5%, as well as his 3-point shooting by nearly 10%. …

“But there was a clear turning point… and it came in March. He found a sense of efficiency, consistency and the capabilty of working within the flow of this Thunder offense. It showed visibly. He was not forcing unnecessary errors, rising up against defenders at the rim with conviction, and leaning into the 3-point shots that teams were disrespectfully allowing him to take.

“It was a clear 180…”


March was definitely Giddey’s best month, with averages of 16.3 pts on 57.2% shooting, including 1.6 3pm on a 3P% of 41.4%, 7 reb, 5.5 ast, 0.6 stl, and 0.7 blk. This was very much in line with his prior season averages of 16.6 pts on 48.2% shooting, including one 3pm on a 3P% of 32.5%, 7.9 reb, 6.2 ast, 0.8 stl, and 0.4 blk.

Confidence restored!

Translation (from Aussie to English): If Josh Giddey can do it, so will Scoot To My Lou.

While I think we’ll all know when we see it, an irrationally confident Henderson, minimally, will look the part of Giddey during his March to remember:

He[‘ll] f[i]nd a sense of efficiency, consistency and the capabilty of working within the flow of th[e]… offense… Not forcing unnecessary errors, [&] rising up against defenders at the rim with conviction”.

With “at the rim with conviction” being the antithesis of what John Hollinger describes as “blown-tire” finishes:

“Henderson’s finishing in the half court leaves a lot to be desired. He still has a tendency to broad jump rather than explode upward and will take off too early at times. He also seems to have unusual trouble getting his legs under him to really power up at the cup, resulting in innumerable ‘blown-tire’ finishes that leave him ending up well below the rim trying to finish over a bigger player.”


What I hope I’ll see out of Scoot next season is controlled aggression and him even playing with bad intent.  Think Russell Westbrook, the player Henderson is most often compared to.

Less Josh Giddey and more of this:

I’ll leave you with one final thought: for all the hand-wringing about Scoot Henderson’s rookie season, it compared quite favorably to Westbrooks’:

Scoot To My Lou

14 pts on 38.5% shooting, including 1.4 3pm on a 3P% of 32.5%, 5.4 ast, 3.1 reb, & 0.8 stl.

Russell Westbrook

15.3 pts on 39.8% shooting, including 0.4 3pm on a 3P% of 27.1%, 5.3 ast, 4.9 reb, & 1.3 stl

So, as the good Dr. said (oh wait, he’s not a Dr., or even a VP candidate, just a certain HOF QB), …“R-E-L-A-X.  Relax.  [He’s] going to be fine.”