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March Madness Draft Prospect Watch: MSU’s Aaron Henry headlines Thursday’s watch list

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Henry would be an enticing 2nd round selection for Detroit

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The 2021 NCAA Tournament officially tips off Thursday evening in Indianapolis. Lots of NBA Draft prospects will be competing, so it only makes sense to try to keep track of potential players the Detroit Pistons could draft later this year.

Thursday night will see just four games tip off (dubbed the First Four), which is considered the play-in portion of the tournament. There’s one game in particular that could be of interest to Pistons fans:

Michigan State vs. UCLA (Thursday, March 18th — 10pm EST on TBS)

Junior left-handed wing Aaron Henry (MSU, 6-foot-6, 21 years old) is likely going pro, although he is having an up-and-down season. However, the last few weeks Henry has more than carried the MSU Spartans to the Big Dance, when just a month ago the team was lifeless and postseason play was an afterthought. Most NBA Draft mocks have Henry slotted in the 2nd round — but for what it’s worth — important dudes like Jonathan Wasserman have Henry as more of a late 1st round pick.

Henry can mostly do a little bit of everything. He can guard multiple positions, figuring to be both a quality individual and a team defender at the NBA level. Henry borders on being above average athletically, is strong and long (about a 6-foot-11 wingspan), and I don’t believe he lacks confidence in his physical capabilities. He’s a smart guy, so he’ll catch on to schemes quickly.

Offensively, he can handle the ball and make plays for others. Where he particularly excels is in the midrange range and with his floater. He’s crafty and can finish with either hand at the cup — here’s Henry’s ( No. 0 in white) deceptive first step and touch on display:

Henry is also very fundamentally sound, as he’s regularly in a strong triple-threat position when he’s sizing up the defense. Here’s more dribble-drive goodness:

When you match Henry’s ball skills with his strength and length, you have something dangerous in the paint. Henry may be able to body a good number of two guards in the league, as well as some tinier wings.

In order for Henry to become a staple in an NBA rotation, he must show more from his 3-ball. Henry’s 3-point shooting has taken a bit of a dive this season, as it’s sitting under 30%. Last season in about the same attempts per game, Henry shot 34.4%.

On a positive note, this season Henry is shooting 75.7% from the foul line after buzzing around 70% his first two seasons at MSU. And he’s getting to the charity stripe nearly twice as much this season.

There’s a lot to like about Henry’s overall profile. I do not think it’s a stretch for Henry to fall to the 2nd round, where the Pistons will have a selection or two or three — who knows what Troy Weaver will have planned.

OTHER PROSPECTS TO NOTE

UCLA 6-foot-6 Sophomore, Johnny Juzang

Juzang likely won’t enter the draft, but he’s a prospect to watch for 2022. His shooting percentages don’t jump off the page, but this is his first season playing big minutes, as his frosh campaign saw him getting limited minutes at Kentucky. Juzang is UCLA’s number one option.

MSU 6-foot-2 Sophomore, Rocket Watts

Early in the college season in the DBB fan posts I was all about Watts. His shot creation skills and ability to hit tough shots can really draw you in. However, he had a pretty rough season and at times played limited minutes for MSU. Rocket does not seem like he can carry a team as a point guard, and he’s not even close to being an efficient enough scorer and shooter to be a consistent side kick to Aaron Henry. It was a far cry from the season Watts was expected to have as one of the more offensively and defensively dynamic players in the Big Ten conference. All that said, I haven’t given up on Watts just yet.

Wichita State 6-foot-2 Sophomore, Tyson Etienne

Tyson is a quality 3-point shooter and one of the tougher, quicker guards you will see in the college game. He’s the number one option for Wichita State, who plays Thursday evening in a First Four game versus the Drake Bulldogs. Remember Tyson Etienne, as he will be a 2nd round prospect as early as 2022 — and who knows, maybe Detroit will be looking for just the right third-string small guard candidate.

UCLA 6-foot-9 Senior, Chris Smith

Unfortunately for 6-foot-9 senior forward Chris Smith, he tore his ACL earlier in the year and his college career is done. Smith is a 2021 2nd round prospect with good athleticism and offensive punch. Here’s a video of his chops:

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