The Los Angeles Lakers’ preseason double-header in Las Vegas has to compete for attention with an exhibition series between two top prospects of the 2023 NBA Draft: Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson.
Henderson’s G League Ignite hosted Wembanyama’s Metropolitans 92 for a couple of games at The Dollar Loan Center on Tuesday and Thursday. The matchup sparked a tremendous interest with many wanting to see the French 7-foot-4 teenager with the agility of a puma, widely considered to be a lock-on No. 1 pick in next year’s draft.
Wembanyama’s talent and physical features have earned him the label of one of the best talents of the 21st century, inevitably leading to comparisons with Lakers All-Star LeBron James. And James has said he understands where the buzz around Wembanyama comes from.
“What do I think of him? I think probably the same as what everybody else thinks,” James said after L.A.’s 119-115 loss to the Phoenix Suns. “Everybody is labeling like this unicorn thing. Everybody’s been a unicorn over the last few years, but he’s more like an alien. No one has ever seen anyone as tall as he is but as fluid and graceful as he is on the floor.
“At 7’4″ or 7’5″ or 7’3″ or whatever the case me be, his ability to put the ball on the floor and shoot stepback jumpers out of the post, stepback threes, catch-and-shoot threes, block shots. He’s for sure a generational talent, and hopefully, he continues to stay healthy. That’s what’s most important for him personally.”
Wembanyama and Henderson put on a show on Tuesday. The 18-year-old Frenchman scored 37 points — after going 7-for-11 from downtown — in addition to five blocks while the Ignite star answered with 28 points, nine assists, and five rebounds, leading his team to a 112-106 victory over Metropolitans 92.
In Thursday’s rematch, Wembanyama racked up 37 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks to help the French side beat the Ignite 122-15. Henderson played just five minutes after injuring his knee while guarding the projected No. 1 pick.
James didn’t hesitate to label the two prospects as the biggest talents of the upcoming draft class.
“There was the two best players in the draft on the floor last night, and they both did their thing, but he’s a big-time player, and Scoot (Henderson) is a big-time player as well,” the four-time NBA champion said.
James added he doesn’t envy Wembanyama and Henderson for having to start their professional careers in the social media age.
“What I went through, I just thank God I didn’t have social media,” James said. “That’s all I can say. I can’t imagine what my life or how it would’ve been different or what would’ve transpired with social media, but I’m happy I didn’t have social media, and I was happy I was from the small town of Akron, Ohio.
“It definitely just kept me in the bunker, kept me locked in with the task at hand. … It made me lock in.”
James praises Austin Reaves for his versatility
Wembanyama and Henderson weren’t the only young basketball stars to hear a few kind words from James this week. The 37-year-old All-Star praised Austin Reaves for his versatility after the second-year Lakers guard went on a triple-double watch in Wednesday’s 119-115 loss to the Phoenix Suns.
“Austin can fit in any group,” James said.
“A guy who plays extremely hard, plays well, doesn’t make mistakes, always in the right place at the right time. He plays extremely hard. His IQ is very high. He fits in any group, and it’s always good to be on the floor with him. I love AR.”
Reaves ended up with six points, nine assists and seven rebounds in 28 minutes against the Suns on Wednesday.
Have you subscribed to our YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, exclusive coverage from events, participate in live shows, and more!