The New Year has brought the Milwaukee Bucks a few positives and negatives for 2013, following the firing of their head coach Scott Skiles just eight days into January. Overall the Bucks were just 16-16 through 32 games so far this season and after four plus years under Skiles the 162-182 record was just not enough to keep the coach around.
Though most would consider firing your coach not even halfway through the season as negative, it could potentially have a positive impact on the team. Assistant coach Jim Boylan has taken over as head coach for the remainder of the season and still has a legitimate shot at leading this young and explosive team into the playoffs.
That leads me into another positive that the Bucks have recently been blessed with an that is the emergence of rookie John Henson. It started briefly when Scott Skiles was still coaching and has continued in his absence. The 6’11”, two-time ACC defensive player of the year started to turn heads over a month ago when the Bucks traveled to Miami and Henson recorded his first career double-double behind 17 points and 18 rebounds in 27 minutes. Milwaukee went on to lose that November 21st game to the Heat 113-106, but that was not the last, or even the ceiling for the former UNC Tar Heel star.
It took over a month for the re-emergence of John Henson as a Milwaukee Buck, (which could have been a tiny part of the reason why Skiles was eventually let go, along with his inability to find and stick with a starting lineup, sound familiar Tar Heel nation!) but better late than never again in the case of Mr. Henson. Even though the game on January 2nd didn’t finish how the Bucks would have liked after San Antonio went into Milwaukee and won 117-110, Henson still finished with a career high in points with 20 and grabbed 9 rebounds as well.
Now in five games for the month of January, John Henson is well on his way to a rookie of the month award if he can continue this new-found production. The 22-year old is averaging over 22 minutes a game, and a highly productive double-double with just over 10 points and 10 rebounds a game so far in 2013. Talk about a Happy New Year. Hopefully the Bucks organization had a New Years resolution that included getting John Henson more minutes consistently. Henson is also shooting 55% from the field and is blocking over one shot a game in that same time frame.
Two things I found very interesting amongst the statistics and minutes Henson is now beginning to rack up, overall he is averaging just over 12 minutes a game on the entire season yet he is still tied for fourth amongst rookie with 3 double-doubles. Only rookies Damian Lillard, Anthony Davis, and Andre Drummond have more and both Lillard(38.1 MPG) and Davis(30.2 MPG) are averaging more than double the minutes than Henson. Also, following his breakout performance in Miami with his first double-double, after the game, an already established star in the NBA in Chris Bosh was quoted saying “Henson can play. He’s going to be good.”
For Bucks fans and John Henson fans alike, it all sounds good. The positive comments from a superstar big-man who already knows what it takes to play the position effectively in the NBA, along with the fact that their new head coach(Boylan) seems intent on feeding Henson as many minutes as he can handle. All of the above combined with his recent success filling up the boxscore looks good on paper, but for me I believe this young man is going to stay driven by the fact that he has a chip on his shoulder about being selected 14th overall in the most recent NBA Draft. His 7 foot 5 inch wingspan and his standing reach a few inches over 9 feet made his resume look more than worthy of a lottery selection in the Draft but that’s not how it happened.
Players like Henson, who may not have a public grudge or visible chip on their shoulder when it comes to those who passed on him in the Draft, one thing I do know is something like that will always motivate a guy like Henson. His talent is undoubted and his ceiling really can’t be predicted even though we know its really high. The one negative I see eventually coming up is the logjam at the forward position in which Henson plays.
The Bucks have Larry Sanders, Ekpe Udoh, an aging Drew Gooden, and Ersan Ilyasova all play the same position as John Henson. To make things more complicated is the fact that Ilyasova isn’t having a great year(a measly 9.2 PPG, 5.6 RPG) despite his off-season contract that guaranteed him at-least 32 million dollars over the next five years in Milwaukee.
Overall, I believe the future of the Bucks as a whole should definitely include John Henson and Larry Sanders. Brandon Jennings is someone who should also be a part of the Bucks future but we won’t know that until he re-signs, if he does.
Either way, John Henson has seemed to begin his ascent to potential NBA stardom and is doing it in a way that not everyone in the NBA does. And that would be playing defense on every play. The offense and statistics as a rookie only add to his already know defensive ability that is now on display at the highest level.