The Whiteboard: Meet Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson

Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports
Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports /

Victor Wembanyama and Scott Henderson faced off in a showcase of two top NBA Draft prospects. They were every bit as good as advertised.

ESPN was likely hoping for something dramatic when they arranged to televise an exhibition game between the G League Ignite and the French team Metropolitans 92 — featuring a matchup between Scoot Henderson and Victor Wembanyama, the likely first two picks in the 2023 NBA Draft. What they actually got had to exceed even their wildest imaginings.

The Ignite came away with a 122-115 win but both stars were absolutely explosive. Wembanyama finished with 37 points, 4 rebounds and 5 blocks, including hitting 7-of-11 from beyond the arc. Henderson went for 28 points with 9 assists, 5 rebounds and 2 steals. Both players showed off what makes them such dramatically unique prospects in a hyper-competitive game. What more could you ask for?

What makes Victor Wembanyama such a compelling NBA Draft prospect?

Wembanyama’s most obvious NBA attribute is his height — it’s kind of hard to miss when you’re 7-foot-5 with a reported 8-foot wingspan. But what sets him apart from the giants who came before him — the Shawn Bradleys and Yao Mings — is his incredible high mobility and skill level. His 3-point shooting is tantalizing and it’s not just that he has range, it’s that he appears comfortable navigating off-ball actions and relocations, as well as shooting off the dribble. You can see from his highlights from last night that he’s not Sam Perkins or Brook Lopez, just spotting up statically in the corner.

There’s a lot more to his offensive game than just shooting — he has excellent touch around the basket, his size makes him an inescapable lob threat and he’s comfortable running in transition or attacking seams with straight-line drives.

But the defensive side of the ball is where he really shines. He’s an excellent shot-blocker and, importantly given his lack of strength at this point, he’s really good at contesting while he’s off-balance or coming from strange angles. Even if he gets knocked off his position, he’s still an enormous presence. You can see in the breakdown below he also has tremendous potential defending in space and that mobility could make him one of the most impactful defenders in the league as he matures.

Wembanyama doesn’t turn 19 until January and the level of athleticism and strength he’ll face in the NBA is a step up from what he’s facing now. But dominating against talent like the Ignite team makes the case that he’s a lot less of a project than he might appear.

What makes Scoot Henderson such a compelling NBA Draft prospect?

As a big, strong guard with overwhelming physical tools, Scoot Henderson is a somewhat familiar archetype, having drawn comparisons to players like Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook in their prime. He’s just 6-foot-3 but has a large wingspan and the explosive speed and power to bully defenders in a variety of ways.

But he leverages those tools with surprisingly advanced craft for a player who won’t turn 19 until February. As a 17- and 18-year-old, he averaged 14 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.7 steals per game for the Ignite last season, standing out as one of the youngest players on a loaded roster.

Henderson’s 3-point percentages were abysmal last year but he has great form and improved shot selection will help a lot. He is a very solid mid-range and pull-up shooter and an elite finisher with the touch to make anything he can’t dunk. There’s no reason to doubt he’ll be a special three-level scorer at the next level. Henderson is also much more advanced as a creator and ball-handler than somewhat similar recent players in this archetype like Jaden Ivey, Jalen Green, Anthony Edwards, etc.

If you missed the first matchup, fear not. Henderson and Wembanyama will play again Thursday at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN and you’ll be seeing plenty of highlights of both guys all season long.

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