When you hear about the Dallas Mavericks and their tenth pick there is probably one name you hear the most: Taylor Hendricks. The uber-athletic, defensively versatile forward looks to be the mold of modern play at the four — capable of defending multiple positions, live near the rim at both ends, while stretching defenses with his three-ball.
Given their string of roster mistakes perhaps the Mavericks can’t have nice things, and it feels increasingly unlikely that the UCF freshman will be sitting their at ten. But if he’s there, the Mavericks have found the defensive help they’re looking for.
The 6’8, 214-pound Hendricks started all 34 games for the UCF Knight’s, who finished seventh in the AAC last season. Though the team was middle of the road it didn’t stop Hendricks from have a productive freshman year. He averaged 15.1 points, seven rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.7 blocks (and nearly one steal) per game. The 19-year old also shot 39.4-percent from three (4.6 attempts per game) and 78.2-percent from the free throw line.
All of the above is solid, but what jumps off the screen when watching Hendricks is his length, frame, and springy athleticism. He measured near a 7’1 wingspan, and he leverages that in a variety of ways defensively. Hendricks is an athletic shot blocker, able to block or deter an array of attempts as two-foot leaper or one. His instincts near the restricted area, and ability to elevate quickly is reminiscent of a volleyball player. It’s a unique combination of timing and pure effort that disrupts anything near the lane.
He is especially effective off the help side. Hendricks was able to play off another big man, and often found himself defending on the weakside while roaming the paint. And if this was the primary reason Hendricks was a lottery talent I would be weary to draft him, simply because big men learning rotations in the NBA take some time. Luckily Hendricks shows booming potential in his versatility, able to navigate switching onto smaller players through pick-and-rolls and either recovering quickly or staying out in isolation. He’s fluid on his feet and has active hands in passing lanes.
On the offensive end Hendricks is the archetype of a stretch-four with a smooth jumper, while also utilizing the athleticism he displays defensively to be a lob threat. And these assets combined will make him an intriguing option as a small ball five in the NBA. He doesn’t have the size to play center full time, but don’t surprised if Hendricks is featured in closing lineups at that position — protecting the rim at one end and creating space on the other with his shooting.
With a top ten pick you’d likely want a player that could create some scoring opportunities for himself or others. In that respect Hendricks’ game is rather limited. While he can counter a closeout, score in straight line drives, and even make some dump off passes, he isn’t going to work out of isolation or make plays for other in traffic. Hendricks’ handles leave some to be desired, even if in the right system he won’t be asked to rely on it often.
Ballhandling shouldn’t be at the top of a list of concerns, but perhaps his size is. Depending on where you slot him long term Hendricks could be a tad undersized. His skillset is that of a tweener big man, but he may have to play more 3/4 than 4/5. Hendricks wasn’t an elite finisher near the rim in non-dunk situations, and the physicality of the NBA will impact some of his athleticism.
Fit with Mavericks
Given the talent level of the current roster Hendricks would have immediate opportunity as a starter, especially given the Mavericks’ need for athletic defenders and their limited skill at the forward position. Mavs fans are often clamoring for a player of Hendricks’ archetype. It would be easy to see him setting screens and finishing lobs or spreading the floor off Luka Doncic’s penetration.
Hendricks won’t fix all the Mavericks’ issues on defense, but he’s the sort of versatile athletic defender you can build around. His skill as a help defender cleaning things up around the rim Jason Kidd could be more creative in which player is paired with Hendricks.
And perhaps even better than all this he infuses the Mavericks with youthful energy. The team was 7th oldest in the league this season, and they had nothing to show for that “veteran” experience. This team desperately needs young talent. With Hendricks you have opportunity to build a younger foundation along with Jaden Hardy, and to a lesser extent Josh Green, behind Doncic’s superstardom. Yes the Mavericks may be “win-now” given Luka’s legitimacy, but to sustain any success they need players like Hendricks.
Comps are always unfair because it’s so easy to take the traits of a current elite vet and lay those expectations on a player who hasn’t even stepped foot on an NBA floor. But Hendricks’ floor is that of an ultra-athletic elite defender. The kind of defensive disruptor you see in young, long athletic defenders like Jarred Vanderbilt or Jaden McDaniels — and perhaps, on the extreme high end, the versatility and shot blocking of Jaren Jackson Jr.
If his ball-handling and scoring versatility ever develops fully he could blossom into a Jerami Gratn mold. But those aspirations can be patient and slow. His already present skillsets are enough to buy-in to what he could bring today.