An Early NBA Scouting Look at Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson

An Early NBA Scouting Look at Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson article feature image

Via David Becker/Getty Images. Pictured: Victor Wembanyama #1 of Metropolitans 92 poses for a photo with Scoot Henderson #0 of the G-League Ignite on October 3, 2022 at Las Vegas Basketball Center in Las Vegas, NV.

We haven't even seen the new 2022 rookies make their official debuts yet, and already, all eyes are on the 2023 NBA Draft class.

That's because Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson already look like slam dunk, home run choices for next summer's No. 1 pick.

The NBA showcased two of its potential superstars with a pair of games between Wembanyama's French Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92 squad and Henderson's G-League Ignite, and the games lived up to billing.

Wembanyama was the star of the show. He racked up 37 points in the opener and recorded seven 3s and five blocks, which has been done only once in NBA history. He was even better in Game 2 with 36 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and four more blocks. Henderson was pretty impressive himself with 28 points, five boards and nine dimes in a win before missing most of the second game injured.

We've still got a full year to scout these guys before next summer, but early indications suggest this could be a tanking battle like none before. Teams at the bottom will be heavily incentivized to maximize their lottery odds, so that could be great news for under bettors for teams like the Rockets, Thunder, Pacers, Spurs or Magic, all with win totals set in the 20s.

So what did we learn about Wembanyama and Henderson? Let's take an early scouting report on what we saw this week…

Wembanyama is a Generational Prospect Unlike Anything You've Seen Before

If you somehow haven't seen any Wembanyama highlights, let's start there. This dude is 7-foot-4 minimum with an eight-foot wingspan but plays like a guard. This was 100 seconds in to the biggest game of his life.

no what in the hell is Victor Wembanyama

— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) October 5, 2022

The audacity. Here's a casual pull-up 3 a few minutes later:

no. but seriously. what in the entire hell is Victor Wembanyama

— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) October 5, 2022

There are fewer than 100 humans worldwide this tall, but one of them is 18 years old casually taking step-back jumpers like this:

Victor Wembanyama, sheesh. I'm trying to process.

— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) October 5, 2022

or this…

what do you do with this.

— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) October 6, 2022

or this.

alright man.

— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) October 6, 2022

We've never seen anything like this before, not in the NBA, not as a prospect, not anywhere. This combination of size and natural talent is unmatched in basketball history.

The fluidity and movement skills stand out the most for me.

Everything is so easy. Look how smooth that dribble is. Watch how casually he brings the ball up the court, goes between his legs, crosses the defender over, and glides to the rim. Our Matt Moore compared Wembanyama to Tracy McGrady, one of the only other players I've seen make the game look this easy. TMac is eight inches shorter, by the way.

Many guys this size don't look right on a basketball court. The movement can be stilted and forced, and it's often awkward just seeing them run up the court. Natural fluidity and movement at this size is huge, and it's what stood out early scouting top picks like Evan Mobley and Chet Holmgren. It's a marvel when 6-foot-10 folks play like guards. Wembanyama is at least half a foot taller.

We're starting to see more bigs play with that level of fluidity, but we've never seen that paired with this incredible jump shot. Wembanyama's jumper is so silky and smooth it'd make him a tantalizing prospect if he were a full foot shorter. Just that shot alone — its accuracy and consistency along with the advanced footwork and ability to get it off literally anytime he wants at that height — makes Wembanyama an elite prospect.

Naturally, an eight-foot wingspan is also pretty useful on defense.

Wembanyama effortlessly volleyball swats shots into the stands, and his recovery radius on defense is out of this world. It's impossible to oversell the defensive potential of a player this size. Remember the Finals play when Robert Williams recovered from under the basket to block a 3? Wembanyama is at least six inches longer by wingspan. He uses that long reach to poke at steals and contest or scare away far more shots than he actually blocks.

Okay, so we have a 7-foot-4 alien blocking shots, dribbling like a guard, and hitting pull-ups, step-back 3s and runners. What's not to like?

Wembanyama is a Developmental Work in Progress

There's no questioning the sheer natural talent and size for Wembanyama, who turns 19 in January. But scouts will have plenty to watch for.

Strength is an issue, as you'd expect for someone his age. Wembanyama had only four rebounds in the opener, unforgivable at his size, and he got pushed around some in the post and on the glass. He has a slender frame that will only fill out so much, even as his body matures.

The health concerns will always be real at this size. There's precious little history of anyone this size not having consistent health problems throughout an NBA career — it's simply asking a lot to do the things Wembanyama does in a frame his size.

I'm not sure Wembanyama is an NBA center, even with the direction the game is going. And that may not be a criticism! He's not at his best banging in the paint and doesn't look great playing with his back to the basket in the post. That's just not playing to his strengths, and it's a waste of his handling and shot making.

Wembanyama will inevitably get the Rudy Gobert comp, but I wonder if he's more of a modern-day Andrei Kirilenko. He might be more of a combo forward and switchable help defender, though obviously you want to keep him near the hoop defensively to maximize his rim protection. And maybe this is all a good thing — maybe playing more outside the paint and taking less of a pounding under the rim will help extend the shelf life of this giant.

We'll see if Wembanyama has the rounded skill set to be an offensive engine required of modern superstars. He certainly scored enough in these games, but the scoring repertoire is incomplete for now and over reliant on that jumper, which isn't always enough. We haven't seen much passing or creation ability yet, and the self creation is mostly just getting his own jumper off.

If you think of the game's very best players in 2022, they all have the ball in their hands all game. Bigs like Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo are only superstars because the entire offense runs through their hands. It doesn't matter how good Gobert will ever be defensively when he can't touch the ball enough to be a true superstar.

Without that upside, Wembanyama can't really be considered a "best prospect since LeBron" type and might be closer to an Anthony Davis. When Davis is rolling, he pours in 40 points with ease. But other nights, he barely even gets his touches. Without the ability to play as the engine of the offense, his play is dependent on teammates.

Wembanyama will need the right role on the right team. The skill set is obvious, but it needs to be refined and honed and put into the right situation.

The instincts also need some work. Modern basketball is so much about natural hoops IQ and reaction. Wembanyama's instincts don't pop. He's a reactive defender, a split-second slow rotating for the block, switching, or recovering in pick-and-roll defense.

So far, his size helps him cover many sins. But Wembanyama isn't hyper athletic, and in the NBA, those split seconds will matter. His decision making and instincts, especially defensively, will need lots of honing.

Still, we're obviously nitpicking when we're knocking an 18-year-old prospect for not quite being a LeBron-level prospect.

Wembanyama is an elite never-before-seen prospect. He's a highlight machine and will no doubt be a heavy favorite to go No. 1 in the draft.

But he wasn't the only elite player on display.

Scoot Henderson Is an Elite Prospect Too, Worthy of No. 1 Consideration

It was clear from the jump that Scoot Henderson was more than a little miffed that this week was billed as Wembanyama's grand unveiling. He came out aggressive from the opening tip:

Scoot Henderson.

— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) October 5, 2022

Henderson went right at Wembanyama early and often:


— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) October 5, 2022

He didn't always get Wembanyama…

(this has been so much fun)

— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) October 5, 2022

… but that didn't stop him from trying again on the very next play.

Just so much fun. Scoot and Victor have been going at it. Here Victor gets the block on Scoot. Next time down, Scoot comes off, holds him, hits the roller for a layup.

— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) October 5, 2022

Here's two minutes of the full Scoot package:

Scoot Henderson was magnificent last night.
-Elite in every facet of athleticism
-Incredible understanding of angles w/ his at-rim finishing and playmaking
-Effective off-ball
-Shot looked good
-DEF footwork was great
-DEF effort, screen navigation, rotations were impressive

— Tyler Metcalf (@tmetcalf11) October 5, 2022

You've never seen anything like Victor Wembanyama before. But what's exciting about Scoot Henderson is that you've absolutely seen guys like him before — because he looks just like the great modern lead NBA guards.

Henderson has the full package.

The confident, compact jumper stood out. He hit a pull-up on the opening play. He drained a step-back 3 over Wembanyama. That jumper is always there because Henderson has an electric and powerful first step the opponent has to respect, and his outstanding deceleration allows him to pull up at any time. The jumper stands out as a massive improvement from the last time we saw Henderson in the spring. He's also added a lot of tone and muscle.

Henderson is a confident driver with a creative handle. He plays with both power and finesse, and his strength is evident and stands out for an 18-year-old guard prospect. Henderson is a good finisher and has the power to finish through and over guys, and he's a smart driver, keeping the defender on his hip and using his balance and body control to attack. His athleticism and leap are outrageous. Think Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook, maybe Baron Davis.

With Wembanyama, you can't help but wonder because we've never seen anything like him. With Henderson, you can see him walk into an NBA offense tomorrow because we know exactly what he can be.

More than anything, the intangibles leapt off the court.

Henderson is That Dude. He's got that dawg in him. Henderson's competitive fire was on full display. He repeatedly went at Wembanyama all game — not always successfully, it should be noted — and found ways to attack the big man and to suck him in before dishing to an open teammate, en route to nine assists. Even at 18, Henderson is the clear leader on a team full of seasoned pros. It's impressive to earn that level of respect this quickly.

NBA teams are always looking for culture setters, and Henderson looks like a culture setter and the future face of a franchise.

Victor Wembanyama looks awesome, but Scoot Henderson does too. This could be a real race for the No. 1 pick, and this might be a tanking battle for the ages.

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