Could Taylor Hendricks be the 3-and-D forward to push the Spurs into the modern era?
The former Knight is one of the best defensive prospects in this cycle. He is a legitimate multipositional defender who should cover threes and fours with no issue and handle guards and centers in a pinch. His unusual blend of lateral mobility, foot speed, length, and a frame with room left to fill out should have every coaching staff in the league salivating.
He smothers drives from forwards and supersized wings with his reported seven-three wingspan and absorbs contact well. Hendricks holds his own when switching on the perimeter thanks to his flexible hips and swift feet, and he can sit in a defensive stance and slide with guards. Even if his man beats him, he has the tools to close the gap for rearview contests.
Hendricks is a serviceable post defender with a stable base who walls up when frontcourt players get physical. He rarely reaches and goes straight up to challenge attempts around the paint. True bruisers can displace him and barrel through his chest, and while he must get stronger, he shouldn't be a liability when matched up against most fives.
As impactful as he is in man-to-man situations, Hendricks is an even more potent team defender. He routinely makes the correct rotations, talks with his teammates, tags roller, and supplies gap help before closing out to get a hand up versus shooters. His foul rate is low, and he avoids boneheaded mistakes, though his screen navigation could be smoother.
The 6-foot-9 stopper is an unbelievable weakside rim protector that uses his superb awareness, impeccable timing, effortless bounce, outstanding ground coverage, and long appendages to block and alter shots. He also displayed a masterful grasp of verticality, and Hendricks wasn't afraid to meet anyone at the summit to erase would-be posterizations.
It's hard not to fall in love with his white-hot motor. Hendricks never gave up even when it looked like opponents had a breakaway, putting forth the extra effort to get back into the play. He had several eye-popping chase-down swats and single-handedly busted multiple two-on-one advantages that prevented guaranteed points in transition.
Hendricks was probably more disruptive in the passing lanes and on-ball than his 0.9 steals per game suggest. He has active hands and lightning-fast reactions, and he came up with tons of deflections, snagged lobs out of the air, poked the ball free on drives, and manufactured simple offense with his event creation on the defensive end of the court.
There isn't much to nitpick with Hendricks, but his rebounding (7.0 RPG) was below average for someone with his measurables and athleticism. While he corralled some impressive boards in a crowd, his effort to box out was inconsistent, and he relinquished tons of second-chance points. However, being perimeter-oriented might have skewed the numbers.
Much like Jarace Walker, Hendricks has mouthwatering scheme versatility as a point-of-attack defender. The agile teen can switch across positions, hedge, blitz, and play drop coverage. He isn't someone quick ballhandlers can target in the pick-and-roll, and he should add value to whatever team lands him in the lottery during the 2023 NBA Draft.