Last season as a starting center John Henson surprised with his ability to be efficient. Having signed Brook Lopez in an effort to create more space, Henson has been relegated to the bench unit, but that doesn’t mean his efficiency is set to disappear.
With more spacing and more passes coming in Mike Budenholzer’s new-look Milwaukee Bucks offense, John Henson should continue to find the looks close to the basket that he thrived on last year.
His ability last year to connect with Khris Middleton on alley-oops was a key part of his scoring. According to Eric Nehm in a piece for ESPN Milwaukee late last season, Middleton and Henson were the sixth most common alley-oop partners in the NBA as of March 27th.
Budenholzer has never been afraid to tinker with his offensive scheme, and his ability to put simple, subtle tweaks into actions that the entire NBA run should mean that he will be able to take advantage of Henson’s ability and catch radius around the basket.
Running the same motion defenders have seen for their entire careers with little differences keeps them guessing and uncomfortable while playing defense.
Having an improved scheme to work in should allow Henson to take advantage of more open looks. Not only will he see improved looks but Henson will be seeing them against backup centers. The 27-year-old’s move to the bench leaves him where a player of his skill level should be on a team seeking to go deep in the playoffs. After seeing his ability to score against starters without any structured or effective system to work with, his efficiency should improve as he sees improved looks against lesser opponents.
However, Henson simply coming off the bench does not mean that he should not see minutes with some starters. His chemistry with Khris Middleton, as mentioned before, created many alley-oop opportunities and they act as highly efficient looks around the basket. The Bucks should continue to take advantage of this by continuing to find minutes for the pair together.
Both players have previously spoken about their chemistry together saying that it started early on in their time playing together.
Speaking to Eric Nehm, Middleton said the following about their first year on the Bucks as teammates:
“We played a lot together. It was a terrible year for us, but we got to expand our games. I was a floater guy at first and then I noticed I was taking the floater with two guys and he was just there at the rim. So, I told him to start looking for it”.
It started as Middleton noticing he had a teammate consistently more open than he was and it has now transformed into one of the most common occurrences of that play in the NBA.
Henson also spoke of the situation, saying:
“He sees me loading up and he’s got a shot and he’s a little far out, he kind of just throws it up. We developed that kind of chemistry where I kind of just know when he wants to pass, when he’s going to shoot. It works.”
The duo have been able to see each other in action so often there is an ability for each of them to know what the other wants to do. Therefore, having Middleton and Henson not see any playing time together would be not taking advantage of something that can create easy points for the Bucks.
John Henson is not a starting-level NBA center. He is, however, a good backup center whose skills around the rim on both sides of the floor should help him continue to see minutes. Henson’s efficiency should still be evident in his game as he sees better looks, from a new offense with better ball movement, against opposing backup players.