After what was a consistent campaign during the 2017-18 season, veteran Milwaukee Bucks big man John Henson will have to follow up his resurgent year with some added frontcourt competition.
Throughout all of his six seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks, there’s been one common knock tagged towards John Henson’s play, that being the inconsistent nature of it.
Sure, external circumstances such as injury, through no fault of Henson’s, have played a factor in derailing previous seasons throughout his career such as they did during both the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons.
But for the most part, Henson’s up and down production and overall impact has been a steady through line throughout his NBA career to this point, despite the many openings he’s had to take over the team’s starting center duties.
All of that is why Henson’s performance for the majority of last season was a refreshing change of pace, even in the face of the Bucks’ all too prevalent inconsistencies.
Whether it was tallying his most efficient scoring season (8.8 points per game on a 57.2 field goal percentage) or logging the highest net rating of any regular rotation player for the Bucks last year, Henson made the most of the many minutes that came his way.
Of course, in keeping with the theme of his career, Henson’s impact dwindled towards the end of the season, specifically during the Bucks’ playoff series against the Boston Celtics, as a result of experiencing tightness in his lower back.
While that certainly put a damper on the final portion of his year, it shouldn’t diminish the return to form the 27-year-old experienced for the better part of the season. Now with the 2018-19 season fast approaching, Henson has a few added elements to deal with as it relates to following up his solid play last year.
There’s the arrival of new head coach Mike Budenholzer, who stands as Henson’s sixth coach in his six-plus years since coming to Milwaukee after being selected with the 14th overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft:
We’re already seeing the effects of how Coach Bud’s presence could affect the type of role Henson will assume this season during the first few days of this year’s training camp as the Tar Heel alum was seen jacking up three-point attempts from the corner spots in practice just like everyone across the roster.
On that subject, Henson spoke to Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Wednesday afternoon about how he’s adapting to the principles and system Budenholzer and his coaching staff are implementing as well as the team overall:
“Part of being in the NBA is adapting to a new system, to a new coach,” said Henson, who barely rippled the net on at least one corner trey after practice. “To be successful you have to be adaptable. As a team I think we’re doing that. …
“This coaching staff does a great job of giving us confidence. Me, personally, I’m coming in in the mornings and getting some shots in with Vin (Baker) and getting those extra reps up. I’ll have the time – guys aren’t just going to run me off the line at first. It’s just about making them at this point.”
Secondly, and the biggest component to consider in how and when Henson will see the floor, is the addition of fellow veteran big man, Brook Lopez.
Henson has glowed about what bringing in a player of Lopez’s capabilities will do for him and the Bucks in general, as he did again during this year’s Media Day earlier this week, and Lopez has certainly been at the forefront when it comes to traditional centers adapting to the pace and space nature of today’s NBA.
Although Henson is very far from matching Lopez’s services on the offensive end, Henson arguably has a leg up on his new fellow frontcourt mate when it comes to affecting the game defensively, at least in the times when he’s at his best.
Add in another inconsistent Bucks big man in Thon Maker and potentially Tyler Zeller, should he win out the ongoing training camp battle for the last spot on the team’s roster, and it’s quite stark how the circumstances are surrounding Henson in the lead up to the coming season.
As a result of all that, it’ll be fascinating to follow how Henson responds to the many changes the Bucks are currently integrating in the hopes of finally capitalizing on the window that’s been open with the superstar ascendance of Giannis Antetokounmpo.