Everyone loves it when Giannis Antetokounmpo goes up against Nikola Jokic and Luka Doncic goes up against Stephen Curry during the regular season. The same kind of excitement can be felt when the league’s newest and youngest players meet for the first time.
With these rookies, we will see for the first time individual matches that could shape the NBA for the next 10 years. How they do against each other will affect their spots on the Kia Rookie Ladder from week to week and, in the long run, their chances of being named Kia Rookie of the Year.
Five highly anticipated games between top rookies:
- Scoot Henderson vs. Victor Wembanyama
For the most tantalizing context in which to view the initial, this-time-it-counts NBA showdown, you need to go back to October 2022. That’s when Wembanyama’s Metropolitans 92 team lined up against Henderson’s G League Ignite squad in Henderson, Nev. The two 18-year-olds put on a show for the ESPN audience and more than 120 NBA scouts said to be in attendance.
Henderson scored 28 points in 28 minutes, with five rebounds, nine assists and two steals in securing the victory. Wembanyama played 37 minutes and, sure enough, scored 37 points. He added four rebounds, a steal and five blocks. At the time, there were some arguing that Henderson might eclipse his counterpart as the season unspooled. But Wemby said, “If I was never born, I think he would deserve the first spot.” And he wasn’t wrong.
- Brandon Miller takes on Victor Wembanyama
Miller’s shooting was off in the Summer League, but his coach, Charlotte assistant Marlon Garnett, didn’t think he was unfairly criticized because of the high standards. Even Wembanyama was criticized after a bad first game. On the first night of the Summer League, the Spurs and Hornets played the most-watched game, but Wembanyama shut down critics with his second and final game.
The first pick in the Draft versus the second pick is about as easy as it gets. Miller was far down in the Draft order—no one was going to pick him over the 7-foot-3 Frenchman—but the Hornets liked him enough to move him ahead of Henderson, who went to Portland as the No. 3 pick.
- Ausar Thompson takes on Amen Thompson
Amen went to the Rockets at No. 4 and Ausar went to the Pistons right after him. Because of this, they are the first brothers to be picked in the top five of the Draft. This means that for the first time, they will live far away from each other. Before the Draft, Ausar said that the most time we’ve ever spent apart was two days. Both Amen and Ausar are 6 feet 7 inches tall.
Amen is more of a point guard, while Ausar is a standard wing player who was named MVP of their league last year. Fans might like to compare them when they’re on the same floor, but for the two close brothers, it’s always been about sharing.
You should get a report. When the twin brothers fight with their separate sides, it could get confusing. Since they were born in San Leandro, California, and went to Pine Crest High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and then to the Overtime Elite semiprofessional league in Atlanta last season, these guys have been very close.
- Bilal Coulibaly takes on Victor Wembanyama
Coulibaly is the Class of 2023 youngster who is most likely to play against Wembanyama. The winger who is 6 feet 6 inches tall and has a wingspan of 7 feet 2 inches went six picks after his French partner and fellow Metropolitans 92 player.
Coulibaly didn’t get nearly as much attention as his friend, but he had some good games in Las Vegas: 19 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 blocks, and 2 steals against OKC, and 10 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks, and 2 steals against the Spurs. He can’t shoot yet, but the Wizards were happy with how hard he worked over the summer and how willing he was to defend every position. But most likely not Wembanyama.
- Scoot Henderson takes on Brandon Miller
This is a match between two people who don’t like each other and is just one spot below a player who thinks he or she will be picked first. Fans of both the Blazers and the Hornets heard enough about the two to be interested and ready to judge quickly. If Henderson had been picked second, he might have taken over LaMelo Ball’s job as the backcourt star and offense starter for Charlotte.
By going to Portland, Henderson pretty much started the Damian Lillard deal drama that was all over the news this summer. Miller scored 26 points against Portland in a Vegas game that Henderson missed because he hurt his shoulder in the summer and couldn’t play anymore. This was a big step up from his previous inconsistent foul-a-palooza performance.