Why Isn’t John Henson Scoring?


John Henson is at a crossroads in his career. Although he’s still young (24 years old) a lot of people seem to think he may be on his way out of Milwaukee soon. His name (along with O.J. Mayo) is often one of the first to come up in potential trade talks, especially regarding moving up in the 2015 NBA draft.

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But why? Well, to be blunt, it’s because Henson wasn’t having a great season. It wasn’t entirely his fault (especially considering for his first fourteen games Henson averaged just 12 minutes per game), but he just didn’t impress anybody in the early parts of the year.

Mostly because he didn’t score many points. Of course defense and ball movement are crucial aspects of good basketball, but fans want to see scoring. It excites us, it’s fun to watch and easy to calculate, and it quite literally wins games. In those first fourteen games, Henson only scored 4.2 points per game. Not exciting.

And then he got hurt. On November 25th Henson stepped on Brandon Knight’s foot and sprained his own, causing him to miss fourteen games before finally returning the day after Christmas.

He came back better, but still not great. He would switch between being good, okay and seemingly nonexistent in his first 37 games back, including a six game span where Henson made just six shots. That’s as close to nonexistent as you can get considering he played 111 minutes over those six games.

Things looked bad for John. He wasn’t taking many shots, his confidence seemed low and he missed more than half of the shots he did attempt. Until a game against the New Orleans Pelicans, on March 17th. The Bucks would eventually lose that particular game, but it was no fault of Henson’s.

Henson made a shot more than he had in his last six contests…combined. Captain Hook was back. Henson scored 14 points on 70 percent shooting and also contributed seven rebounds and four blocks to the Bucks’ cause. He took ten shots in that game and had a huge impact.

Unfortunately that’s been the exception, not the norm for Henson. His most recent game is a prime example of this. He was solid, sure, grabbing five rebounds and three blocks in the Bucks’ win over Brooklyn. But he certainly didn’t have a huge impact on the game.

He scored six points in that game on 3-for-6 shooting, which is decent but nothing to write home about. That phrase essentially sums up Henson’s whole offensive game, honestly. He’s only scored more than 14 points once this entire season, out of 64 games played.

Larry Sanders, one of the best examples of a defensive-first center (and a better defender than Henson, despite their block totals) scored 15 or more points 13 times in the 2012-13 season (when he was 24). Sanders may have played more minutes, but he wasn’t even considered an offensive weapon and he still managed to at least occasionally score a bit.

The weird thing about Henson’s offense is that he doesn’t miss many shots. When he takes shots, he makes them. He just refuses to shoot most of the time. When he takes at least nine shots a game, he’s likely to shoot over 50 percent. When his shot attempts are in the double digits this season, he’s never shot under 60 percent.


Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/12/2015.

As you can see above, in games where Henson decides to take a lot of shots he scores a lot of points, and efficiently. Only twice has Henson shot under 50 percent when he’s taken at least nine shots, and in one of those games he recorded ten rebounds and four blocks anyway. It’s not just his scoring that improves when he shoots more, it’s his whole game.


Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/12/2015.

If we look at Henson’s game score performances, a metric created by John Hollinger to roughly calculate a player’s impact on a particular game, it gives us some interesting results.

Out of Henson’s top six game score performances of this season, only one involved him taking less than nine shots. He took eight.

It’s not merely a symptom of minutes played either. In Henson’s top ten games in terms of minutes played he’s taken nine or more shots only four times.


Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/12/2015.

In this article’s title I posed a question; why can’t Henson seem to score? That’s why. He’s not getting involved enough with the offense. Jason Kidd and Henson need to work together to change that.

There’s no reason Henson should lead the Bucks in field goal shooting yet rank tenth in field goal attempts per game (twelfth if you count players that have since left the team). Especially considering that we’ve already seen he’s even more accurate when he does take more shots.

It’s hard to say with any certainty that Henson should/should’ve started more games this season considering how well Zaza Pachulia has played, and the consistency he brings on a nightly basis.

But I’ll say it anyway. This season was always about development, not chasing a championship. By that logic, John Henson should have been the Bucks’ starting center.

Although Milwaukee did just clinch the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, that was never really the goal. Letting young players improve is the focal point of this campaign, and Henson is very much a part of the Bucks’ young core. There’s something there, and it looks like Henson could be a starting center someday if given the room to grow.

The blocking ability is obviously already there. His rebounding is getting better, and he’s shown he can score if he takes the shots. It’s now up to him and Coach Kidd to figure out ways for Henson to take more shots in the future, and see if he can continue to make them at such a high clip.

If he can, the Bucks may not have to look very far for their center of the future.

Next: Bucks' Comic: Giannis Is Done Playing Games

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