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The next evolution of John Henson

The Milwaukee Bucks have changed some of their roster, their coach and their game plan. As a result, John Henson showed a totally different skill-set.

After earning the seventh seed last year, the Milwaukee Bucks needed to make some changes in order to move up the Eastern Conference standings. They added Donte DiVincenzo through the draft in a solid move. They then managed to sign Brook Lopez, Ersan Ilyasova and Christian Wood in an effort to strengthen their frontcourt.

As a result of these changes, John Henson, who was the starting center last year, saw his role change. Lopez has slipped into the starting role, meaning Henson — who is currently out indefinitely after wrist surgery — comes off the bench. This is not new territory, as Henson spent most of his first four seasons coming off the bench, starting in only 44 of his 257 games.

The addition of Lopez has given cause for Henson to change his game to something we have not seen since preseason of his rookie year. He is becoming a stretch-5. Yes, the same John Henson who took a total of 13 3-point shots in the first six years of his career has added the 3-pointer to his game. Furthermore, he’s shown a tremendous ability with the outside game.

Henson was 11-of-31 on the season from outside the arc before his injury. This means he was shooting at 35.5 percent from deep this season. This is a respectable number, especially for a big like Henson.

Why the change?

When you think of pace-and-space, the name John Henson does not spring to mind. He’s a stay-at-home defender who makes a living offensively off looks close to the basket. Under new head coach Mike Budenholzer’s scheme, Henson was going to be the odd man out.

Giannis Antetokounmpo makes more sense as the player the Bucks use close to the rim. He is a tough matchup for any team and offers playmaking capabilities that most players his size do not possess. Henson would not be anywhere near as effective inside as Antetokounmpo.

With Brook Lopez and Ersan Ilyasovsa being so good from deep, Henson could have seen his minutes dry up completely, or he could have been traded. He’s still a valuable defender who can play both frontcourt positions, however, which means his offense is what needed adjusting.

With the 3-point shot Henson added, he carved out a role as a useful rotation piece, even in limited minutes. He was only averaging 5.6 points in 13.4 minutes per game, the lowest since his rookie campaign, but his rebounding numbers are a little more interesting.

Henson was averaging 5.1 rebounds per game on the season, compared to 5.4 for his career. This came in seven fewer minutes per game compared to his career average, a tremendous help to a team that finished last in rebounding last season.

These numbers are also especially good considering Antetokounmpo is collecting 10.1 rebounds per game, four more than his career average. This has the Bucks in first place for total rebounds per game with 51.3 per night, a complete contrast to last season.

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While John Henson was not playing extended playing time and is sidelined for the foreseeable future, his change in role and the way that he has embraced it was helping the team. He was allowing the starters to log fewer minutes than they would normally, which will bodes well for a long season and hopefully a long postseason if he can return to 100 percent.

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