The unprecedented, two-game exhibition series between Metropolitans 92 and the G League Ignite gave basketball fans a prequel to the story of two fantastic NBA Draft prospects in one of the most enticing classes in recent memory: Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson. The latter shined brightly in the first matchup, but exited the second early with an injury.
That game still captured the collective eyes of the basketball world, a testament to how impressive Wembanyama’s display was as he went for 36 points, 11 rebounds, and four blocks on Thursday afternoon. On Tuesday, he lit up the box score with 37 points and five blocks, including a 7-for-11 showing from deep.
It’s simple to point out his size — the dude is 7’4! It’s what he’s doing at that size, and doing routinely while flashing the capability of doing even more, that has led to him receiving more hype than any prospect since LeBron James. Hype is not always a good thing, because the word ties into expectations and the difficulty that can come in trying to meet them.
To me, Wembanyama ascends the notion of hype, as he breaks the game and changes the dimensions of the court. You know how Fortnite removed building in some aspects of the game? That’s an apt analogy to how Wembanyama controls the court — the things he can do redefines how the game is played. It’s one thing to be 7’4 with an 8-foot wingspan, it’s another to have that size while being able to do this.
We’ve seen plenty of seven footers who can shoot. Some of them have been able to put the ball on the floor and attack closeouts, some of them are able to take defenders off the dribble. None have been able to do it with this level of quickness, fluidity, coordination, and touch around the basket. Wembanyama is consistently able to play through or over contact due to his height and release point, while his balance is also extremely good for his size. There is still room for him to grow, but as of right now, he is a good enough shooter that you can’t just leave him alone and live with the results.
He’s not just shooting open corner threes. Wembanyama is taking shots off of movement, trailing in transition, some self-created jumpers, and ghosting out of screens. His ability to self-gather and have advanced footwork prior to a shot are ultra-smooth and a joy to watch.
The shooting gravity combined with his downhill fluidity makes him a player who can legitimately utilize the majority of the half-court. His release point — which, I’d love to know what it is when measured out, because it has to be close to level with the basket — cannot be bothered. This is absurdity!
The mid-range tough shots have been a club in Wembanyama’s bag for a while, but Thursday was a clear and concerted effort to show what he can do, and it was the sort of performance that will stick with me for quite some time. Shot after shot after shot drew a reaction — see if your jaw hits the floor while you watch this, because mine sure did.
He was already the clear-cut No. 1 pick headed into the class at the end of last season, and his early season play with Metropolitans has been extraordinary for his development. His assertiveness and aggression have ratcheted up, while his overall feel for the game has grown, too. He’s that much better at finding ways to use his size to impact play. There’s still room for him to improve as a passer. He threw some wayward passes in that second game, but the court vision is solid. Repping out reads and continuing to work on his deliveries and accuracy will be worth tracking.
His defensive aptitude, event creation, mobility, and ground coverage are staggering. He’s starting to bend the court with his gravity offensively, but he’s been warping offenses with his stifling play on the other end of the floor for some time now. What stands out the most isn’t necessarily the blocks. Rather, it is the hesitation that he can cause, as his mere presence strikes fear into players on the other team. Numerous Ignite players showed timidity inside the arc, and understandably so.
A counter after the interior lane is shut off with a spin into the hook is a normal shot for Efe Abogidi. It’s a bit telegraphed, but look at the point where Wembanyama tips it. That’s at the very apex. Hook shots are normally getting blocked in a player’s hand, as they’re used to flip up and over length, but the geometry is changed here.
He doesn’t need to sit back in drop, even though he can thrive there. He’s an adept rim protector, but his defensive feel and timing are special. The mobility he possesses allows him to play multiple pick-and-roll coverages, while that awareness and timing are what make him so capable of putting those tools to use.
Henderson is a quality pull-up jump shooter, and usually, defenses will scheme to show high help and recover over top to live with the jumper and prevent paint touches, as that’s where the magic happens for Scoot.
It’s unquestionably a concession, and some teams could have benefitted from strong contests, but the math made sense for them in the moment. Henderson has a bit of a forward motion into his shots that he’ll use to get to the foul line, and it can deter defenders. It’s a nice tool to creak open even more space.
Once again, Wembanyama changes the equation. Watching opposing players truly gain an understanding of Wembanyama’s length and timing for the first time on the court is — and almost certainly will forever be — an endearing experience.
While Henderson didn’t get as much of a chance to shine due to his injury, these two games were a special showcase for Wembanyama and a phenomenal introduction to the general public of his impending stardom. The growth track he is on is exceptional. There has never been a player like him in my lifetime, and he’s not even in the NBA … yet.