Can John Henson be a Franchise Center?

Anyway, first off, Henson to me is definitely a center, despite coming out of North Carolina looking like he would be a great, mobile PF. He doesn't actually have that quickness, and his game is mainly close to the basket. He clearly needs to put on some muscle weight, but he has the size to be a regular NBA center.

Offense first. Henson has really played very efficient offense this season, and especially lately. Though he rarely starts or gets big minutes, I think it is safe to say that he almost always outperforms Zaza. He is averaging 11 ppg on the season, on 26.5 minutes; if I'm doing my math correctly, that is almost 15 pp36mins, which places him somewhere around 16th among NBA centers this season. Surprisingly, at 53% FG%, Henson scores at a higher % than 13 of the 15 guys ahead of him (Pek and Dwight being the only ones better). In fact, 53% shooting is good for 8th among all centers. Henson's Assist/Turnover Ratio is 12th among centers who play at least 26 minutes per game; not bad considering that only one center of the 11 (Sully) is younger than Henson (and Sully only beats Henson 1.02 to 1.01). His offensive rebounding rate, while not fantastic, is solid as well, roughly middle of the pack of starting centers. The biggest statistical weakness in my opinion is his free throw shooting, where he both fails to get to the line often (only 2.5 shots per game) and fails to convert efficiently when there (51% on the season).

All in all, I don't think it is a stretch to say that Henson is a top 15 offensive center in the NBA right now, and maybe top 6. He is only 23 and it is just his second year in the league-first at center really-so I am actually very impressed with Henson offensively.

Defense now. Henson definitely struggles here, compared to offense. The best parts about Henson's game are his lack of fouling (decently low foul per minute #) and his shot blocking. Henson is 8th in blocks per game. Not surprisingly, his blocks per foul rate is high as well, good for 9th among centers who play at least 10 mins per game. However, the rest of his defense is not so hot. He is not a strong defensive rebounder, with only 4.7 per game; this can be partly attributed to his minutes, but that is only 6.4 per36, putting him somewhere around 20th. Additionally, if you just look at matchups, he regularly gets dominated by the opposing center; case in point with J. Val last night, tearing us up scoring and rebounding.

All in all, I think it is too early to tell with Henson as a defender. He has enough length to defend as a center and can put on enough weight to be effective as well. I think he will always have sufficient quickness for a center, despite not actually being a quick guy generally. The high block rate could indicate being out of position or other problems, but it could be a positive as well. He is only 23, and learning the center position, and I think that his floor is being an below-average but not terrible defender, with a ceiling of being a fairly good defender.

To me, these stats indicate that Henson is already a fairly good center, deserving of a starting position in the NBA at age 23. I think he has decent potential, especially on offense, where he already has the making of a potentially top notch offensive center. However, stats do not tell the whole story; I am concerned as to why Henson doesn't start games and why he looks a bit out of shape.

I don't know whether Henson can be a franchise center; what do you guys think?

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