You can find Dakota Schmidt's video breakdowns all over the interwebs, including Silver Screen and Roll, Ridiculous Upside, Behind the Buck Pass, Queen City Hoops, and Salt City Hoops. Below he takes a look at the talents of John Henson.
With the 2014-15 season underway, a number of questions still remain very much up in the air for the Milwaukee Bucks. One of the biggest concerns facing Jason Kidd: Can the team find a go-to inside scorer to complement the outside-in abilities of Brandon Knight, O.J. Mayo, Jabari Parker and company?
Given what we know about Ersan Ilyasova and Larry Sanders, the answer is unlikely to come from the team's current starting big men. While Sanders has previously shown glimpses of production from inside the restricted area, he's struggled this season and is unlikely to score on anything outside of putbacks, pick-and-roll finishes and the occasional short hook shot. Meanwhile, Ilyasova has never looked remotely comfortable with his back to the basket, instead relying on his ability as a perimeter shooter for the vast majority of his offensive production. And while Parker may eventually develop into a go-to threat from both the high and low posts, consistency as an inside scorer is not yet a strong suit for the Bucks' 19-year-old rookie.
Without a legitimate inside threat among the starters, John Henson stands as an option who could potentially provide the Bucks a post alternative to the perimeter-oriented attack we've seen thus far. In the span of his short two-year career, Henson has been able to make some clear improvements as a scorer, with his finishing inside five feet rising to an impressive 64% last year after notching a 61% mark during his rookie year. And it's not just short shots where Henson excels--as the chart below suggests, Henson was also above-average in the non-restricted paint area out to around 10 feet last season.
One of the obvious reasons for that increased percentage was Henson's improvement as a post-up player. To truly be able to showcase Henson's improvements as an inside threat, I've gone over all of Henson's shooting footage from NBA.com and compiled an offensive video breakdown featuring his work inside the paint.
Before delving deeper into his work as a post-up threat, let's start with a reminder of how Henson's 7'5" wingspan gives him an immediate advantage over defenders. Despite Henson's lack of bulk and clear bias toward his left hand, it's nearly impossible for defenders to block his shots because of the extension he gets on his array of hooks.
Besides that clear advantage, Henson also showcases a good amount of patience and confidence when he's working inside the low-post. While many young frontcourt players try to force the issue, Henson generally shows good awareness of his defender's positioning and understands how to get off a shot that can't be blocked. With the combination of patience and his 7'5 wingspan, Henson has been able to develop a solid post-up game built around his left-handed hook shot. All told, it's nearly impossible for opposing players to prevent him from getting good looks, as showcased by Henson's impressive 53.7% shooting (130/242) on all hook shots tracked by NBA.com last season.
But while that lefty hook has become an extremely effective weapon for Henson, it's no secret that he tends to rely on it more than he should. As the video above shows, Henson's right hand is almost an afterthought around the basket, as he works almost exclusively from the right block in order to drive middle and shoot over his right shoulder. Adding a drop-step and a simple short right-handed hook shot would help make him into a much more complete inside threat, and was an understandable point of emphasis over the summer.
Aside from his soft touch around the basket, Henson has also shown an ability to work around his low-post foe to get an easy looks at rim. For a 6'11 big man, Henson has surprisingly nimble footwork, which he's often able to use to good effect when he's posting up opponents. While he usually uses that trait to create an opening for his trademarked hook-shot, Henson can also make subtle moves to ease around the opposition for dunks and reverse layups.
That nimbleness could allow Henson to become an intriguing pick-and-roll partner for his old North Carolina friend and teammate Kendall Marshall, though to date we've yet to see Marshall play with any regularity under Jason Kidd. Last season with the Lakers, Marshall piled up huge assist numbers in no small part due to his comfort working in different pick-and-roll sets alongside Chris Kaman or Pau Gasol. And while Henson doesn't boast the same mid-range game as that duo, his quickness and soft touch in the paint should make him an effective pick-and-roll partner.
Despite possessing the most well-rounded low-post arsenal on the Bucks, Henson looks destined to settle for a role with the team's second unit until further notice. Sanders' superior defensive abilities will make him difficult to supplant as the team's starting center, while Henson's lack of mid-range consistency has made him a less-than-ideal option as a starting power forward next to Sanders. As the most obvious victim of the Bucks' logjam at the big positions, Henson has seen his minutes dip from nearly 27 per game last year to just 12 in the season's first two weeks, though he's remained productive with 56% shooting and a PER of 20.6 when he has been on the court. So don't close the book on Henson just yet. Some combination of injuries and trades are likely at some point, offering hope that sooner or later Henson will have another opportunity to showcase himself as the team's best post-up player.