An Early NBA Scouting Look at Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson

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.

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