The Milwaukee Bucks were one of the biggest surprises in the NBA this past season. After eight consecutive seasons of never finishing with more than 42 wins, they won 46 games, finished second in the Central Division, and pushed the Atlanta Hawks to a seventh game in the first round of the playoffs.
The season seemed lost after Michael Redd went down with a second major knee injury, but after a mid-season trade for John Salmons, the team caught fire and turned into one of the most dangerous teams in the league.
Although the future is uncertain for both Redd and Salmons with the Bucks, the team has two giant pieces to the puzzle, Brandon Jennings and Andrew Bogut, already in place.
Jennings was the steal of the 2009 draft, and he turned himself into one of the top young point guards in the game, while Bogut evolved into a complete center before his season ended in early April with a dislocated right elbow and broken right hand.
While no one will consider them an early favorite for the 2011 title, they have All-Stars at two very key positions, something not many teams can boast about. They won't have a lot of salary cap room this summer, so the majority of work to improve the team will need to be done through the upcoming draft.
Salmons, Luke Ridnour, Royal Ivey and Jerry Stackhouse can all potentially leave via free agency this summer, making it imperative for the Bucks to find players to put aside in the backcourt aside from Jennings. Xavier Henry, the freshman shooting guard from Kansas, is the perfect player to slot as a shooting guard next to Jennings for the next several years in Milwaukee.
Depending on which mock draft you read, Henry is slated to go anywhere from as high as eighth to the Clippers all the way down to the Bulls with the 17th pick. Milwaukee, with the 15th selection, could very well see Henry waiting for them come draft night.
Despite being just 19-years-old, Henry already has an NBA-ready body. His height (6'6" or 6'7") is perfect to play either at shooting guard or small forward. He weighs anywhere between 210-225 lb, and he already possesses great strength for someone so young.
He doesn't have the best ball-handling skills, but with Jennings running the point, he doesn't need to be an expert with the ball. His size, athleticism and ability to run the court are the tools perfectly suited for Jennings' game. Too many times, the Bucks' offense was slowed down because Michael Redd was unable to run the court with Jennings and Bogut.
Henry's jump shot will also prove to be a valuable tool in the half-court offense. The same traits that make him effective running the court will also benefit him trying to get his own shot as the shot clock runs down.
Like most young players, defense will be a weakness for Henry. However, given his physical gifts, he'll already enter the league as a better defensive player than either Redd or Salmons. Along with Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Henry's length on the defensive end of the court should cause havoc with most offenses in the league.
The major downfall for Henry is his youth. He won't turn 20 until mid-March next year. Meanwhile, Jennings will turn 21 this coming September. While youth and athleticism are great weapons, being the most inexperienced backcourt in the league will cause coach Scott Skiles many sleepless nights over the next few years.
Until the contracts of Redd and Dan Gadzuric come off the books after the 2011 season, the options to improve are limited for the Bucks. With two cornerstones of the franchise already in place, it's now time for GM John Hammond to begin adding pieces to the puzzle to build a winner in Milwaukee. Xavier Henry is the perfect puzzle piece to join one of the best young teams in the league.
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