The dust has finally settled on the first ever exhibition match-up between Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson–the projected top two picks in next year’s NBA Draft–that quickly turned into a landmark “Where were you?” moment for basketball fans around the world.
While the 18-year-old point guard Henderson’s G League Ignite won, 122-115, over Wembanyama and his French professional club Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92, the latter stole the show and dominated the news cycle in the game’s aftermath.
Wembanyama put on a magnificent performance that justified the hype around him and may have just convinced most NBA teams, save for the handful that fancy themselves as title contenders this year, to consider tanking to the bottom this upcoming season.
Against the Ignite, he led all scorers with 37 points and also hit seven three-pointers, grabbed four rebounds, and tallied five blocks.
The 18-year-old phenom has a wiry 7’2 frame yet is agile and dexterous which, coupled with his guard-like offensive skills, have led to inevitable comparisons to 12-time NBA All-Star Kevin Durant. This juxtaposition may seem like hyperbole to those that have never watched Wembanyama play given the successful career that Durant has had since being drafted second overall in the 2007 NBA Draft.
However, Wembanyama is that rare prospect that is almost a surefire bet to live up to the hype and he could even exceed the all-time great that he has been likened to.
Unlike Durant when he was at a similar point in his career, the French center has already shown tremendous defensive instincts. He is a menacing rim protector and has flashed an ability to read passing lanes for deflections. Furthermore, he has already shown that he can defend guards adequately when switched onto them in the pick-and-roll.
The team that has the fortune of drafting Wembanyama will be set for at least the next decade and the upcoming tankathon is likely to be one of the most extreme in recent NBA history.
Although it is unlikely that Henderson will leapfrog Wembanyama to become the first overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft barring any injury, he is proving to be a solid player in his own right.
He had 28 points, five rebounds, and nine assists versus Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92 and was unafraid of attacking the basket despite the presence of Wembanyama.
The 6’2 guard has a strong physique and is an explosive athlete which are two traits that have drawn him favorable comparisons to two former NBA Most Valuable Players in Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose. Like Westbrook and Rose though, his perimeter shooting and playmaking leave much to be desired. His development in these two aspects may ultimately decide how high his ceiling in the NBA will be.
These two rising stars have franchise changing potential and the upcoming season is likely to have several teams vying for the highest possible lottery odds in order to secure their services. Wembanyama is a once-in-a-generation player and Henderson has the tools to become one of the best guards in a league that continues to grow more guard-centric by the day.
The draft is still several months away and the new season has not even started, but as early as now, it is crystal clear that the tank is on for the generational talent that is Victory Wembanyama.