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NBA Draft Prospect Review: Taylor Hendricks
What does it mean to be a “raw” talent? In the NBA, it means you’re over 6-feet-6-inches, over
200 pounds, and you’re athletic, but you lack an understanding of the game, a strong jumpshot,
and playmaking skills. The narrative surrounding UCF’s breakout freshman Taylor Hendricks is
that he’s “raw,” but NBA fans may be surprised to see just how versatile Hendricks is when he
enters the big leagues.
Hendricks, the 6-foot-9-inch high-flier from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, played and started in 34
games for UCF, racking up 15 points per game to go along with seven rebounds (2.4 offensive
rebounds) and awesome shooting splits. On nearly five attempts from deep, Hendricks was
39.4%. In total, he shot 47.8% from the field and 78% from the line. Pretty good for a “raw”
Like his lengthy counterpart GG Jackson, Hendricks may be under-the-radar because of the
UCF team he played for, which was seventh in the American Conference. However, they were a
few points away from being much higher on the standings: they lost to Memphis and Cincinnati
by one, Temple, Miami, Missouri and Cincinnati by two (Miami and Missouri being NCAA
Tournament teams), and even the mighty Houston by six.
Hendricks was the offensive star for UCF, showing an array of crafty moves that aren’t normal
for such a tall prospect. He broke down the best defender in the lottery, Houston’s Jarace Walker, with a mean crossover in a December game, for instance. You can tell Hendricks was
taught to have guard skills that have translated as he has grown. This is especially dangerous
for opponents when it comes to his slashing, which he also does well off-ball. He positions
himself well in the paint during a cut and always goes up for the powerful dunk, and for what he
lacks in acceleration he makes up for with his timing.
He has a nice shot, with his sizing helping when it comes to ignoring contests. Still, he can get
phased when moving on the jumpshot; he’s much better stationary, but that’s expected for a 6-
foot-9-inch guy. I do like his mid-range jump shot, elevating high to time his shot right. It is hard
to have good touch when he’s in the air for that long, but it gives him time to focus on the shot
and perhaps drawing a foul as well.
Hendricks has some lack of awareness when it comes to ball security; 1.4 turnovers per game
is not terrible, but he has a tendency to get stripped when receiving a pass, which indicates he
doesn’t have the sixth sense of where his defender is at all times. Big deal. He also misses box-
outs, and I’ve seen him box out his own teammate one too many times.
Because he played mostly in the post in high school, he doesn’t have a great understanding of
the spaced-out brand of basketball that all 30 NBA teams have incorporated into their offenses.
Add on the fact that he only has one season of collegiate experience and you can expect him to
have quite the adjustment period in the NBA schematically.
Hendricks doesn’t have great burst, but he does have great top speed. This makes him less
dangerous in halfcourt offense but more dangerous in transition. Once he reaches his top
speed, he can’t be slowed down. In terms of playmaking, it’s mostly dump-off passes to another
big. This type of passing is valued in the NBA, so expect some big-to-big passing from
Hendricks, but that’s about it.
What may be most impressive about Hendricks’s versatility is that he played center often in
UCF’s lineup, even starting several games at the center position. His verticality is amazing. He
averaged 1.7 blocks per contest this season, and he has the size to be a good interior help
defender in the NBA, perhaps even from the small forward position.
Hendricks has active hands, staying in front of the ball-handler. He even picks off passes with
his long arms, and could guard all five positions tightly. He keeps his hips low so that he doesn’t
bite on fakes, and he’s able to keep up with drives, but this means he gives up the step-back. If
he doesn’t give up the step-back, it often results in a foul, and foul trouble is an issue with him.
Overall, his defensive fundamentals are good for the NBA.
In his first years in the NBA, I expect Hendricks to play a similar role to Jaden McDaniels. This
means not scoring much, but spreading the floor and locking down on defense. McDaniels is
extremely valuable to the Timberwolves, fitting into the fifth offensive option perfectly, as his
defense makes up for his lack of all-around scoring. They are both 6-feet-9-inches, but
Hendricks is about 25 pounds heavier, meaning he should be able to hold his own in the paint
A good ceiling for Hendricks would be a more consistent, more efficient Jerami Grant. The
forward Grant started his career as a solid two-way player who began adding more to his
offensive game. Although his defensive game has declined since then, Grant is an awesome
complimentary piece to a star, and it got him paid, as he is rounding out his three-year, $60
million contract that he first signed with the Pistons before being traded to the Trail Blazers.
If Hendricks can prove himself as a well-rounded two-way player, he can go from there.
Everyone wants a two-way third option on their team, and I think Hendricks can make a name
for himself as one of the best. Can he go farther than that? Because of his lack of speed,
elusiveness, and playmaking to go along with his mediocre basketball IQ, I think that it’s safer to
put Hendricks in the bubble with Jerami Grant. If he’s put in the right situation, however, he
could be legendary as a third option on a championship team. I just don’t think he can lead one.
Despite this, calling him a “raw” talent is criminally undervaluing his NBA outlook, and I believe
Hendricks is here to stay.
To learn more about Taylor Hendricks, the rest of the 2023 draft class and the
future of the NBA, tune in to NBA Tomorrow on Radio DePaul Sports every Tuesday at
1:30 PM Central.