Published on January 14th, 2012 | by Bryant West, Columnist0
2012 NBA Draft Prospect Stock Watch: John Henson
John Henson probably could have been a top fifteen selection if he’d come out either of the last two seasons, but to the young man’s credit, he chose both times to return to North Carolina. That’s obviously working out pretty well for him, as his Tar Heels are ranked third in the nation and he’s continued to make huge improvements in his game.
If you want to get a handle on Henson, physically he’s comparable to former Tar Heels big man, Brandan Wright. Henson, like Wright, is tall and has excellent length, but can’t seem to put any serious weight or muscle on. Wright currently plays for the Dallas Mavericks, and four years into his NBA career he still weighs 210 lbs.
Henson came into North Carolina at 6’10” but weighed just 186 lbs. In three years of weight training, he’s just up to 228 pounds. That isn’t going to cut it against NBA bigs.
What is going to cut it against NBA bigs is his skill set, which has improved every season. Skillset wise, he’s like a smaller Tyson Chandler, with the defensive skills, rebounding abilities and the love for the pick-and-roll offense. He thrives on setting the pick and getting to the basket, where his explosiveness makes him incredibly hard to stop.
His low post defense and rebound skills are even more impressive when you consider that he played guard in high school until his senior season, when he had a growth spurt that added six inches. Considering he’s only played a post position for less than four years, some of his weaknesses can overlooked.
He’s made improvements on his low post game, but it still needs to continue his progression before he can be a fearsome NBA threat. While his continued climb in filed goal percent is promising—48 percent his freshman season, 50 percent his sophomore, and now at a very nice 54 percent this season—his lack of polish in the low post is as serious a problem as his lack of weight, and combined those two issues may sink him to the lower lottery selections.
He also lacks any consistent outside shooting, although this season he’s been really working on a 10 to 15 foot jumper and is showing mild improvement. His free throw shooting sits at 50 percent on the season—and that’s an improvement (he shot 43.8 percent his freshman season).
Still, his continued progression is evidence of a strong desire to improve, and a good motor is always a key in a projected player.
Draft Watch: Henson is currently ranked below Kentucky’s Anthony Davis, Baylor’s Perry Jones III, Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger and Kansas’ Thomas Robinson in terms of power forwards for the class of 2012.
Putting him in the mid lottery, an excellent eye text fit for Henson would be Sacramento. The Kings biggest need is small forward, but with the best small forwards (Harrison Barnes and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist) likely to go higher, Henson would be great for the Kings who need desperately to bulk up their interior defense alongside DeMarcus Cousins. With Cousins next to him, Henson’s lack of size doesn’t become such an issue.
Another fit could be Toronto, if the Raptors stay out of the top of the lottery. Henson’s defense and rebounding would fill a huge need for Toronto, who get neither consistently from Andrea Bargani. Toronto does has Jonas Valanciunas coming over next year, however.
And finally, New Orleans could take a look at Henson with the later of their two picks. The Hornets own their pick, currently a very early lottery selection, as well as the Timberwolves pick, which will fluctuate all season as the Wolves figure out how good they actually are.
If the Hornets don’t get one of the top five power forwards with their first selection and end up taking a guard or small forward—Harrison Barnes comes to mind—Henson as their second lottery selection would be an excellent fit.
Conclusion: With his athleticism, rebounding skills and defensive tenacity, if he can build some low post scoring repertoire, he could be a very good selection in what looks like one of the deepest drafts in NBA history. He should be a top ten selection if he (finally) puts his name into the draft.
Photo Credit: Jeff Moreland/Icon SMI