Every single person you ask will tell you that the 2014 NBA Draft class is one of the deepest they’ve ever seen. Highly touted freshmen left and right, proven seniors and intriguing foreign prospects galore this year.
With only 60 picks available in a loaded draft class, there are going to be a lot of talented players vying for spots during Summer League play in Las Vegas and Orlando. But there’s one player who has the talent to succeed in the NBA but needs be in a certain situation in order to make that happen, and it would require him to be drafted by one specific team.
Marshall Henderson has been known more for his off-the-court problems than his skills on the court. Drug problems, arrests, suspensions and, more recently, homophobic comments directed towards St. Louis Rams draft selection Michael Sam.
Playing at Ole Miss, Henderson was not one to play the game quietly. Taunting crowds, crazy facial expressions, flipping off the crowd and not hesitating to open his mouth, Henderson made the game of college basketball a little more entertaining and much more intriguing whenever he stepped onto the court.
As a junior college transfer, Henderson was busted for forgery, using counterfeit money to purchase marijuana. He avoided jail at the time, but went to prison for 25 days in 2011 for violating his parole stemming from drug problems, testing positive for cocaine and marijuana.
Henderson had a target on his back from the first day opposing crowds found out about his past discretions, so Marshall decided to give them a current reason to hate him: his play killing their favorite teams on the court. He averaged 20.1 points per game in his first season at Ole Miss, shooting 35 percent from the three-point line while shooting about 11 from downtown per game. He wasn’t afraid to let the rock fly.
Entering his final year, there were questions surrounding Henderson once again as he suspended indefinitely in July of last year but wound up only missing the first three games of the season, plus an exhibition game for getting into some more trouble. Once he returned, the Rebels were a much better team, but Marshall was still Marshall.
Ole Miss couldn’t recreate their magical NCAA Tournament run in 2013 and missed out in 2014 while Henderson averaged 19 points per game, effectively ending his short-lived but unique run in college basketball. Now he must hope for the best, though that hope may be even more short-lived.
Henderson was not one of the 60 players invited to participate in the NBA Draft Combine, currently doesn’t have any individual or group workouts scheduled with specific teams and will be competing in The Basketball Tournament beginning in June on a team with former NBA players Hakim Warrick and Reggie Williams. His road to the NBA would definitely not be a conventional one.
With there already being well over 60 prospects hoping to find a home in the NBA, Henderson has not been on anybody’s radar since the end of the season. It’s more likely that he will have to hope for Summer League invite to make a run at the NBA, but there’s one team that could take the chance and make Henderson into the player he should be.
The San Antonio Spurs are known for taking some less-than-desireable prospects and turning them into quality NBA players. Gary Neal, Dejuan Blair, Danny Green and many others entered the NBA with few prospects. Some were fringe draft prospects while others had one issue or another overshadowing their chances. Blair had no ACLs, Green was the fifth or sixth option on a national championship team. Each one came into the Spurs organization and both have become and/or continued to be valuable players in the NBA. But they’ve never taken on a project like Marshall Henderson.
If there’s one franchise that can take a troubled person but talented basketball player like Henderson and make him into a star, its San Antonio. Gregg Popovich doesn’t mess around with his players. They play his system, they work as a team and they don’t cause problems. They do, they’re immediately gone. Henderson needs some sort of structure in his basketball and personal life. You don’t screw up with the Spurs.
Now, wasting a draft pick on Henderson might be pushing it. Henderson may be better off trying to work his way into the NBA through the Summer League. However, he may have trouble finding a team to take him on with all his past problems. If the Spurs were to use their final pick of the 2014 draft, 60th overall, that could send the wheels in motion to resurrect Marshall’s life.
Say the Spurs take Henderson. If a team with that much success and that much prestige takes the chance on the troubled young man, that could send a message to the rest of the league that he’s worth the risk or, at the very least, says that they are willing to take the chance on him. Second round picks have non-guaranteed contracts, so if he screws up or doesn’t work out for San Antonio, it wouldn’t cost them much to cut him loose and say they tried.
Marshall Henderson may be a chore and a mystery of a character, but the San Antonio Spurs as a team and an organization could do wonders for somebody like him. It’s not the most conventional pick or the most conventional way of doing things in the NBA, but it’s something to consider.
We can’t let a kid like Henderson fall through the cracks because his college team didn’t want to do enough to help him out. They let him play and pushed him along, hoping he’d win them some games. It’s disappointing, but it’s not too late for him. I mean, there’s no real way Henderson could launch 23 three-pointers in a game like he did this season while he’s in the NBA, right?