Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
The Milwaukee Bucks frontcourt is more crowded than Water Street on a Saturday night.
Ekpe Udoh, Larry Sanders, Zaza Pachulia, and John Henson are all fighting for playing time, and that means someone is likely to go. We just aren’t sure who it’s going to be, but we can hypothesize.
Sanders just signed a four-year, $44 million extension, and Pachulia just came to Milwaukee on a three-year deal worth upward of $15 million. I know what you’re thinking. There’s nothing more peculiar than a three-year deal with Zaza Pachulia, and strange rhyming schemes aside, it makes even less sense to make that deal when you already have three developing athletic bigs.
The Bucks were set with youth in the frontcourt, but now after committing money to Pachulia, they have to make a move so that they don’t have a young talent rotting on the bench. That means moving either Henson or Udoh.
Udoh would probably be the easier get. He’s about four years older than Henson and is an expiring $4.5 million deal. He’s a decent defender and an athletic shot-blocker. Someone would pick him up without having to give up the house.
So it’s probable that the Bucks would keep Henson and use him as their starting power forward or first big man off the bench, but for some reason, Milwaukee didn’t treat a rookie whom it drafted 14th overall last year like a part of its future plans. And nope, that makes no sense.
Henson finally broke out in the final five games of last season, when he averaged 15.0 points, 15.0 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game. After averaging 11.3 minutes a night over the Bucks’ first 77 games of the year, Milwaukee finally started to invest some time in a rookie who should have earned burn far earlier in the season.
Then came the playoffs, and the Bucks decided to revert for inexplicable reasons. Actually, “reasons” implies that there was logic involved in playing Henson only 33 total minutes in the Miami Heat’s four-game sweep against Milwaukee last April, but truthfully, there was no logic.
There is no logic in playing your talented, young big man fewer than two minutes in Game 3 of the first round of the playoffs. There is no sense in increasing Luc Mbah a Moute’s minutes from 22.9 a game in the regular season to 34.0 a game in the playoffs when you have other quality forwards who can contribute.
And there’s no sense in doing any of this when you have a 22-year-old who has averaged 15 and 15 over his past five games.
The Bucks did all of it anyway in one of those inexplicable Bucky moves that seem to happen so often. J.J. Redick and his eight minutes played in Game 2 of that series know exactly what I’m talking about.
Maybe we shouldn’t rely on Milwaukee changing its mentality about Henson. Maybe the Bucks are willing to trade him. Maybe a team like the Los Angeles Clippers, who are an extra guard deep and a big man short, could con them into swapping Jamal Crawford for a package that includes Henson. If Henson left Milwaukee, he’d get playing time, but it’s unrealistic to assume that leaving is even an option.
In the real world, Henson is staying in Milwaukee because he’s too good to leave. Now, all the Bucks need to do is take the remarkably small risk of playing a second-year stud who might complement Larry Sanders better than any other big on their roster.