HENDERSON, Nevada — Multiple NBA scouts and executives showed up well over an hour early to see projected top-two draft picks, Scoot Henderson and Victor Wembanyama, ahead of the first game of their highly anticipated matchup.
During pregame warmups, Henderson looked focused and knew what was at stake, even it was just a G League preseason game. When asked prior to tipoff what his mentality 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).
The 7-foot-3 phenom and projected No. 1 draft pick, Wembanyama, finished 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 flashy finishes around the rim, draining contested 3-pointers and finishing above the rim in transition, netting 28 points and nine assists in 31 minutes.
“[Henderson’s] better than Ja Morant was at this stage in his career,” one NBA scout told Yahoo Sports. “Both of these players could end up being franchise-changing players.”
The two players are completely different and impressive in their own right, both just 18 years old. To watch the 7-foot-4 Wembanyama play in person is incredible. His staggering height obviously stands out, but the way he moves with the ball and his impressive shooting mechanics (with an 8-foot wingspan) don’t seem real. He’s a cross between Kevin Durant and Rudy Gobert.
Early in the third quarter, Wembanyama had a three-play sequence with a corner 3-pointer of the pick-and-pop, a block on the defensive end then an and-one 3-pointer that drew oohs and aahs from everyone in the arena.
“When you have a special player like Victor, you cannot be surprised by what he does because regularly he’s doing things that he did tonight that normal players can’t do,” Metropolitans 92 head coach Vincent Collet said.
“Victor is one of those type of players when you say, ‘There will never be another Shaq, there will never be another that.’ He’s that,” Ignite head coach Jason Hart said. “You’ll never see another player like him.”
Henderson looked like a true floor general on the court and is someone Wembanyama has been watching the last few years.
“I’ve been following him for 1-2 years, and out of all the prospects in our class, he’s my favorite player,” Wembanyama said Monday. “He’s the most reliable guard in our class, and he’s really a great player. If I was never born, I think he would deserve the first spot.”
Henderson, a 6-foot-3 point guard, and Wembanyama didn’t directly match up for the majority of the game, but each player had his moments. Early in the first quarter, Henderson scooped shots around the rim under Wembanyama and drained a contested 3-pointer with the French center in his face. In the second half, Wembanyama hit deep threes and even put Henderson at the rim for an impressive block.
“He’s tough to guard, just what I expected,” Wembanyama said after the game. “I think the biggest part of his game is his aggressiveness. Every time the ball is in his hands, it’s like just something you feel on the court. It was a surprise in a good way, he’s a great player.”
Tuesday was the first time both players have ever met one another in person, and it’s likely the two players will be tied together for the rest of their careers.
“No question they’ll be tied together from here on out,” Hart said. “That’s the beauty of basketball. It brings people together. Scoot and Victor, Victor and Scoot. We’re going to be hearing 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 solidified themselves as the top two prospects. Several teams have already positioned their teams to tank this season.
Round 2 of Wembanyama vs. Henderson is 3 p.m. ET Thursday. It’s only October, but the matchup has turned into must-watch basketball and hopefully a rivalry that will continue for many years to come.