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2021 NBA Draft scouting report: Aaron Henry

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-UCLA at Michigan State IndyStar-USA TODAY Sports

Last year, Aaron Henry was left with a decision to declare for the NBA Draft, or stay another season at Michigan State to bet on himself in hopes of rising his projection. He chose the latter, and it seems like he made the right choice as well.

Henry’s sophomore season was exceptional, but it may have been overlooked by the likes of Xavier Tillman and Cassius Winston, players who are now in the NBA. This basically meant that Henry had more room to grow and develop once they left, and his junior season shows the improvements that he’s made. From being a projected late second round pick in last year’s draft, Henry is currently being projected about as a late-first, or early second-round pick.

At 6’5 and with a wingspan of 6’10, Henry has the body frame to be a solid wing player in the NBA. The first thing that jumps out when observing him is his athleticism, which is one of the things he was given praise for during his sophomore season. This season, you could see how his athleticism helped him improve on both sides of the ball.

Being the focal point on offense for the Spartans, Henry saw himself doing almost everything for a team that didn’t have many scoring options. Though he’s not a great three-point shooter (29.6% from three this season), he was still able to generate most of his points from the mid-range and in the paint. He shot around six-mid range shots at 46 percent, which is similar to players in the NBA such as Khris Middleton, and was ranked as top-five in that category this past season. When he gets in the paint, he has an arsenal of moves and shots to put the ball in the basket. We’ve seen how well the floater has worked for players like Trae Young and Ja Morant at the next level, and if he’s able to consistently hit those kinds of shots, he could have a nice role on a team.

One of the things that helped him get those shots was his ability to create, something he had to lean on heavily his junior season. Having a good enough handle and feel for the ball helped Henry get to almost any spot he wanted to, and it also created looks for his teammates. With the pick-and-roll being one of the most ran plays in the league, Henry showed that he could create shots in that action.

Henry showed improvement in passing the ball as a sophomore, but you could see a big difference this past year since he had the ball in his hands more. In transition, he find his teammates on the perimeter, and is an exceptional paint-area passer. Whether it’s a lob or a dump down pass, Henry has the IQ to put his teammates on the scoreboard. He improved his assist rate as he averaged 3.6 per game, and lowered his turnover rate from his sophomore season.

The best thing about Henry’s game may be his defense. In today’s league, if you’re able to defend at a high level, you’ll find yourself on the floor during important times of the game. What’s most impressive about Henry is his point-of-attack defense and help defense, and there were some games where he just looked like the best defender on the floor. He averaged 1.3 blocks and steals per game, which were improvements from his sophomore season.

It’s almost as if Michigan State is known for breeding good defensive players, especially when you look at a player like Draymond Green, who is a former Defensive Player of the Year, and has been on multiple All-Defensive teams in his career.

There are a lot things to like about Henry, but if he could improve his three-point and free throw shooting, his stock would be higher. Teams in the NBA are living and dying by the three, so you could possibly be a negative on the court if you can’t make them consistently as a wing player. He shot the three better during his sophomore season, but it’s because he shot less more, and the ball wasn’t in hands as much. His shot should improve in the league, and with that should come with a better free-throw percentage as well.

The Hawks could be intrigued with taking a player like Henry. It’s important to always have depth on the wing, and there’s not a clear answer on if players like Solomon Hill or Tony Snell will be brought back in free agency. With Henry, he’s shown that he’s capable of defending at high level, and also getting into the paint with his arsenal of moves. The pick-and-roll was something the Hawks used a ton, and Henry can operate as the ball-handler. With the 20th pick in the first round, Henry should be there if the Hawks want a versatile wing with high potential.