Now Is the Time for John Henson to Seize Chance with Milwaukee Bucks

Jordan RodewaldContributor IINovember 18, 2013

Injuries in the frontcourt have plagued the Milwaukee Bucks through the early portion of 2013-14. Now, second-year player John Henson must emerge as a hero by filling a much-needed void down low.

Unfortunately for the team, starters Larry Sanders and Ersan Ilyasova haven't been healthy to start the season, giving others an opportunity to make their impact felt.

And while Henson, Zaza Pachulia and Ekpe Udoh have all seen more minutes, it's Henson that stands to gain the most.

Future opportunities may be limited, so now is the time for him to showcase his talent and ensure future minutes.

But just how can he do that?


Protecting the Rim

Through nine games the Bucks haven't been terrible defensively, but they haven't been great either.

Although the team ranks 13th in opponents points per game, the 98.7 points they're allowing each time out isn't exactly encouraging.

While the team has done a pretty good job at defending against the three—opponents are hitting just 34.8 percent of three-point attempts—it's elsewhere the Bucks need to step it up.

Opponents of Milwaukee have managed to accumulate an effective field-goal percentage of 50.5 thus far and the Bucks have a defensive rebounding percentage of just 71.5 percent, ranking 29th.

All of this points to a problem on the interior. With Sanders and Ilyasova missing a lot of time, that makes sense.

While he's not quite the extraordinaire Sanders is, Henson can block shots at a high rate as well. Averaging 25.6 minutes each game, Henson is currently swatting 1.9 shots per game and doing a solid job of preventing easy hoops.

Defense is of utmost importance, especially when a team is missing one of the best shot-blockers in the league. For now, one of the best ways Henson can make the most of his minutes is by defending well.

In doing so, he can prove to head coach Larry Drew that, when Sanders returns, the two men can form one of the most intimidating frontcourts around.


Scoring on the Block

Even with Sanders and Ilyasova healthy, the Bucks lack a consistent scorer in the post.

The player on the roster who has best demonstrated his ability to score on the block, though, is without question Henson.

Henson's 2013-14 Offensive Breakdown
Play Type%TimePoints Per PossessionFG%%Score
Post Up22.90.8247.440.9
P&R Roll Man20.80.9553.350.0

As depicted in the table—numbers courtesy of Synergy Sports—above, Henson is most efficient when he works away from the ball and cuts to the hoop. Given his athleticism and ability to move well for someone of his size, that isn't overly surprising.

He's also involved in his fair share of pick-and-roll plays and finishes pretty effectively out of them as well.

What's most encouraging though is the fact that 22.8 percent of plays he's involved in are ones in which he posts up.

With Sanders scoring most of his points off offensive rebounds or dump-downs and Ilyasova's game catering more toward the perimeter, the Bucks lack a low-post scoring threat.

It appears as though Henson is at least attempting to fill that void.

More playing time equates to more experience. We saw glimpses of brilliance during the Las Vegas Summer League when Henson posted excellent numbers and now he's trying to carry that over to the regular season.

So far, Henson is averaging 11.1 points and 5.9 rebounds while shooting a very good 57.9 percent from the field.

Unlike many power forwards today, he's not a great face-up player that's going to shoot mid-range jump shots or blow by defenders with a quick first step. Instead, he uses finesse moves on the block to get a lot of his looks.

Continued improvement in that area will force Drew to play him more even when Sanders and Ilyasova return because having a power forward who can score in the post seems rare these days.


Crashing the Boards

Another way Henson can solidify minutes and become a staple in Milwaukee's rotation is by hitting the glass and hauling in rebounds.

In the summer league, he nabbed 13.7 per game in just 27 minutes of playing time. If a little bit of math is done, that equates to 18.2 rebounds per 36 minutes, which would be a remarkable number.

While rebounding at that rate is incredibly unlikely, he does possess the potential to be around 12 or 13 a night.

To this point in 2013-14, though, his work on the boards has been a little lackluster. At just 5.9 per game, he definitely needs to pick it up, especially with the team ranking 26th in total rebounding.

Obviously the loss of Sanders and Ilyasova has a pretty big impact on that number, but it doesn't help when someone like Henson is averaging fewer rebounds than Caron Butler.

If he can't step it up, his value as a starter doesn't go very far when Ilyasova gets healthy considering the Turk has snagged 6.2 per game for his career.

With the injury issues, Drew has been forced to play Henson. That's great news for the youngster, but now he needs to take matters into his own hands an capitalize on the opportunity.

If he can, the Bucks may consider Ilyasova expendable and trade him. If not, Henson will be relegated to the inconsistent playing time he's seen thus far in his career.


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