The G League Ignite and Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92 met on Tuesday evening inside Henderson, Nevada’s Dollar Loan Center, where two of the best NBA Draft prospects in recent memory squared off: Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson.
Neither 18-year-old disappointed. Wembanyama tallied 37 points (11-for-20 shooting), five blocks, four rebounds, and one steal, while netting seven of his 11 triples. Drilling pull-ups, spot-ups, and jumpers on the move, he showcased his immense shooting intrigue while altering numerous shots inside the paint.
His counterpart, Henderson, led Ignite to a 122-115 victory behind 28 points (11-for-21 shooting), nine dimes, five rebounds, two steals, and only two turnovers. The 6’2 dynamo is a superb point guard prospect, rivaled by few, if any, since the turn of the century. His Tuesday night performance illuminated seemingly all of his wide-ranging offensive allure. He canned jumpers, diced up Metropolitans’ pick-and-roll defense, thrived with and without the ball, and converted finishes around limbs as sprawling as an Inflatable Tube Man.
Henderson’s ball-screen expertise is incredibly advanced, especially for an 18-year-old. Time and time again, he engaged Wembanyama and forced the big fella to make a decision. That is how pick-and-roll initiators succeed: coaxing the defense into compromised decision-making rather than vice versa. Chris Paul, for instance, has long been a master of this; it’s why he’s remained an All-Star in the twilight of his career.
Henderson’s pacing and omnipresent threat as a scorer and facilitator routinely cornered defenders into a bind. Augmenting these traits is his brilliant processing speed. As soon as a window opened, he delivered punctual pocket pass after punctual pocket pass to rollers. Whenever the drop defender — usually Wembanyama — shifted their weight toward him, he effortlessly and accurately set the table for his partner.
On one play, Wembanyama granted him too much room around the screen, so he exploded downhill and drew a foul. Headlined by a pair of empathic rejections, Wembanyama enjoyed his moments against Henderson. Generally, though, the guard won their battles, largely on the basis of ball-screen craft that belies his birth year.
The majority of Henderson’s pick-and-roll playmaking featured above occurred in the second half because Metropolitan altered its coverage against him. In the first half, he dazzled with a pair of pull-up jumpers and they elected to increasingly prioritize getting the ball out of his hands after that.
Not only is his 0-60 explosion otherworldly, his deceleration as a means of space creation is, too. Defenders are in constant worry of his driving potential that any brief moment of acceleration has them teetering. He exploited that fear into open buckets off-the-bounce. His transition from horizontal to vertical explosion is instantaneous, which renders the space creation even more pronounced.
The stepback 3 over Wembanyama is outrageous for an array of reasons. He is 6’2. Wembanyama is 7’4 with an 8-foot wingspan. Henderson still cleanly fires over the top. More than that, though, how he maintains balance and force with his base this wide and deep to promptly elevate is special, special athleticism.
That right-foot jab sends Wembanyama retreating on his heels toward the paint, so Henderson simultaneously launches away from him. Everything — the footwork, the balance, the elevation, the release — has to be pristine. There is no margin for error, given their size discrepancy, and he aces it. Whew.
For as jaw-dropping as the pull-up triple was, Henderson might’ve outdone himself on his slew of finishes with Wembanyama in the vicinity. This dude looked like a dominant guard finisher and driver. Struggles around the former can often bury or hamstring smaller guards in the NBA. Merging skill and athletic tools, Henderson doesn’t appear as though that will be the case for him.
Similar to how he preps room for those pull-ups with elongated strides, he swallows up space downhill like a 6’7 wing, not a 6’2 guard. Note where he picks up his dribble and where he ends this drive.
Typical ground coverage for a 6-foot-2 18-year-old pic.twitter.com/L7w9d0UlMT
— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) October 5, 2022
It wasn’t like he had tons of real estate to rev up, either. He caught the ball at the left wing, pounded a pair of dribbles, and gathered to score inside. His ground coverage, acceleration, and comfort in small spaces are remarkable.
Due to his pliability, he can vary the direction of his steps and maintain speed. When he flips from horizontal to vertical movement, there is no buffer period; he just beams toward the hoop. His understanding of how to optimally shield himself from rim protectors without venturing into impossible angles is uncanny. Wembanyama was stumped a few times as a result.
Ignite wasn’t just the Scoot Henderson Show on Tuesday in the sense that they spammed ball-screens and isolations for him. He displayed impressive duality, adept functioning on and off the ball. Whether it was flowing through handoffs, teleporting off the catch, or cutting against ball denials, he resembles a rather malleable offensive engine.
Many of the skills and athletic traits highlighted previously carry relevance here. His processing speed as a passer ensures he’ll expose a titled defense. His explosiveness has defenders reacting to movement one direction, while he’s already bolted another on cuts; the second play below really emphasizes this component. The manner in which he shrewdly diagnosed and dissected Metropolitans’ defense across varying roles and coverage was the stuff of savants.
Henderson provided virtually everything necessary Tuesday offensively. He jammed out as a scorer and passer. When the defense amended its scheme, he wasn’t rattled. He flourished on and off the ball. He splashed home jumpers and torpedoed to the rim for layups.
Often, these sequences arrived with Wembanyama around. The gangly, sweet-shooting, shot-block center may be the one whose services teams will vie for at unprecedented levels this season. But Henderson is also delightfully good and conveyed that sentiment for the entirety of Tuesday’s 48-minute contest.