HENDERSON, Nevada – Multiple NBA scouts and executives showed up well over an hour early to watch projected top two draft picks Scoot Henderson and Victor Wembanyama lead off the first game of their a much-anticipated relationship.
During pregame warmups, Henderson looked focused and knew what was involved, even if it was just a preseason G League game. Asked beforehand what his attitude was going into the game, Henderson told Yahoo Sports, “Kill. That’s it.”
The game did not disappoint as Henderson’s G League Ignite won 122-115 over the Metropolitans 92 (France).
Wembanyama finished the 7-foot-3 phenom and projected No. 1 draft pick. 1, Wembanyama, with 37 points (including seven 3-pointers) and five blocks in 32 minutes. He came alive in the third quarter after picking up three fouls in the first half. Henderson did his part and put on a show with exciting finishes around the rim, draining a contested 3-pointer and finishing above the rim in transition, netting 28 points and nine assists in 31 minutes.
“[Henderson’s] better than Ja Morant has been at this stage in his career,” one NBA scout told Yahoo Sports.
Both players are completely different and great in their own right, both just 18 years old. Watching Wembanyama play in person is incredible. His massive height obviously stands out, but the way he moves the ball and his amazing shooting mechanics (with an 8-foot wingspan) don’t seem real. It’s a cross between Kevin Durant and Rudy Gobert.
Early in the third quarter, Wembanyama was a sequence through play with a corner 3-pointer off the pick-and-pop, a block on the defensive side then a one-pointer and 3-pointer that drew oohs and aahs from everyone in the arena.
“When you have a special player like Victor, you can’t be surprised by what he does because he regularly does things that he does tonight that normal players can’t do,” said the head coach of Metropolitans 92 Vincent Collett.
“Victor is one of those types of players where you say, ‘There will never be another Shaq, there will never be another to.’ That’s him,” said Ignite head coach Jason Hart. “You’ll never see another player like him.”
Henderson looked like a true floor general on the court and is someone Wembanyama has watched over the last few years.
“I have been following him for 1-2 years, and out of all the prospects in our class, he is my favorite player,” Wembanyama said on Monday. “He’s the most reliable guard in our class, and he’s really a great player. If I wasn’t born, I think he would have deserved the first spot.”
Neither Henderson, a 6-foot-3 point guard, nor Wembanyama were consistent for most of the game, but each player had their moments. Early in the first quarter, Henderson got shots around the rim under Wembanyama and drained a controversial 3-pointer against the French center. In the second half, Wembanyama hit a deep three and even beat Henderson at the rim for an impressive block.
“It is tough to defend, just as I expected,” Wembanyama said after the match. “I think the biggest part of his game is his aggression. Every time the ball is in his hands, it’s like something you feel on the court. He was surprising in a good way, he’s a great player.”
Tuesday was the first time the two players met each other in person, and the two players will likely be linked for the rest of their careers.
“There is no question that they will be tied together from now on,” said Hart. “That’s the beauty of basketball. It brings people together. Scoot and Victor, Victor and Scoot. We’re going to be listening to that for a long time.”
This game had everything and exceeded all expectations. With nine months until the 2023 NBA draft, Wembanyama and Henderson have more than cemented themselves as the top two prospects. A number of teams have put their teams in the relegation tank this season.
Round 2 of Wembanyama vs. Henderson is 3 pm ET Thursday. It’s only October, but the matchup has turned into a basketball to watch and hopefully a rivalry that will continue for many years to come.