While it was great to see Ja Morant taking off for a 360 dunk on Monday night, and Paolo Banchero throwing it down on two people, that was just preseason Memphis Grizzlies vs. Orlando Magic basketball. The NBA regular season doesn’t begin until Oct. 19. Until that day, any minutes fans see of their favorite players will just be them kicking some dust off of the old jump shot before the 82-game grind gets underway.
If you’re going to watch an exhibition game, at least watch one in which the star players have something to prove. For sports fans who want to catch a glimpse at the future of the NBA in a high-profile matchup, the phenom from France will be on American television tonight.
Victor Wembanyama is stateside this week, and will be playing in two nationally televised games. His Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92 based out of Levallois-Perret, France, will be taking on G-League ignite. For all of you NBA Draft heads out there, this is a chance to get a glimpse at the likely No. 1 and No. 2 overall picks in 2023 — Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson.
The first game will be played Tuesday, Oct. 4 at 10 p.m EST tonight on ESPN2. The next one will be played on Thursday, Oct. 6 at 3 p.m.
Both games will be played at G-League Ignite’s home stadium, the Dollar Loan Center in Henderson, Nevada. The Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers are playing an exhibition game nearby at T-Mobile arena in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Nov. 5, so expect to see some of those players in attendance.
A true “can’t miss” prospect comes along infrequently in the NBA. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing, Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan, LeBron James, and Anthony Davis, that about covers the list from 1969 up through the 2022 draft.
Wembanyama is that type of prospect. Most Americans have not seen him play other than a clip on YouTube or social media, but just as scouts used to call certain players “20 footers,” meaning it took only 20 feet of tape for the talent to jump off the screen, Wembanyama should be nicknamed 15 seconds.
That’s all the time that is necessary to see that he is a generational prospect. In recent years, it’s rare to see a talent like that go up against another highly touted player. Ewing vs. Olajuwon in the national championship game doesn’t happen anymore. Carmelo Anthony wasn’t even on the Oak Hill High School team that went up against LeBron James and St. Vincent St. Mary High School on ESPN.
Even as Zion Williamson’s hype grew in his one season at Duke, his most hyped game was a rivalry game against North Carolina. The decades-long rivalry is what made that game compelling, not Willamson against any individual player. Also, got hurt in that game which forever knocked him off of the “can’t miss” pedestal.
Not only is Wembanyama the first “can’t miss” NBA prospect in a decade, but he is also way more fun to watch than Anthony Davis. Wembanyama is a player like the NBA has never seen before. Arguably 7-foot-4, he makes Ralph Samson at Virginia look like a relic from centuries ago instead of just 40 years. He can shoot off the catch and he can shoot off the dribble. He can get around a defender with his dribble or put his back to the basket like the centers who came before him.
All that talent, and basketball fans get to see it up against the best American player in next year’s draft class. Scoot Henderson played last season for Ignite while only 17 years old. He’s a 6-foot-2 point guard, and while he can’t fly quite as high as Ja Morant, defenders do run the risk of turning into viral video when he takes off for the rim. He can break ankles, and also finishes deftly in traffic.
The best of next will be on the floor, and while the game won’t go towards the record of either team, fans and many NBA scouts will take record of which player looks the best at the end of the week.