John Henson is Living Up to the Expectations of the Milwaukee Bucks

Dec 7, 2015; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward John Henson (31) celebrates during the fourth quarter against the Portland Trail Blazers at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Milwaukee won 90-88. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 7, 2015; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward John Henson (31) celebrates during the fourth quarter against the Portland Trail Blazers at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Milwaukee won 90-88. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /

John Henson is doing everything the Milwaukee Bucks expected of him as a backup center this season.

Expectations are a funny thing. John Henson recently signed a four-year, $44 million contract to remain with the Milwaukee Bucks. Before that deal, Henson was expected to be a bench big and not much more. Now, he’s expected to be a transcendent player by the Bucks fanbase thanks to his significant pay raise.

The problem with that is that Henson’s role hasn’t changed. In fact, Henson’s role has actually diminished somewhat from last season. He’s getting less minutes per game now and won’t come close to starting 11 games like he did in the 2014-15 season, barring injury.

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So although the fanbase expects Henson to be one of the best centers in basketball now that he’s gotten paid, the team clearly doesn’t. Henson is only getting 16 minutes per game, which is the least he’s played since his rookie year.

It’s hard to blame either the Bucks or John Henson for not playing more when Greg Monroe has been Milwaukee’s best player all season. Monroe is getting paid too after all, and he’s earned his salary without question.

When looking at how John Henson has done this season, it’s important to keep in mind that he is indeed a backup center. So despite the Bucks paying him some $11 million a season, Henson should still be compared to other backup centers given that that’s his role.

Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports /

Really, $11 million starting next season isn’t a killer contract. Wilson Chandler, Omer Asik and Amir Johnson will all be making that much or more, and none of them are exactly world-beaters. With the cap rising in the biggest two years of Henson’s deal, he isn’t going to torpedo the Bucks books going forward.

Much has been made of the poison pill provision in Henson’s deal as well. That does not mean Henson is untradeable throughout his deal. After June 30th, 2016 that provision expires completely, as Henson’s extension comes into effect.

All the provision really means is that from now until then, it’s harder to trade Henson. His outgoing salary is his current cap hit of $2.9 million, but his incoming salary in any trades is significantly higher–the average of this season and of his extension.

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Teams with a lot of space like the Philadelphia 76ers could still take Henson, and he can easily be dealt this summer when his incoming and outgoing salaries will match. Considering his deal is frontloaded and highly incentivized, trading Henson wouldn’t be a tough task at all after the poison pill provision expires by July 2016.

Unless something changes drastically by then, there won’t be a reason for Milwaukee to want to trade John Henson. In his role of backup center, Henson has been just about the best the NBA has to offer.

Festus Ezeli263058514.7.5519.2.53215.
John Henson253048315.3.5866.6.53212.
Kosta Koufos263269214.2.5374.0.56113.
Tiago Splitter312336913.6.5253.6.81510.

Provided by View Original Table
Generated 1/4/2016.

Festus Ezeli, Kosta Koufos and Tiago Splitter are generally regarded as three of the best backup centers in basketball. John Henson has been better than all of them in at least some aspects. Henson is scoring the most among the group, blocking the most, assisting the most and shooting the highest percentage from the field.

Turnovers and personal fouls have been a problem for Henson, and his rebounding lags behind Ezeli and Koufos. But according to player efficiency rating, box plus-minus and value over replacement player, John Henson has been better than those three guys all season.

Sure, there are things Henson needs to work to improve on. His consistency, fouls, and turnovers all need work. But it’s tough to tell him that he isn’t living up to expectations considering the role the Milwaukee Bucks have placed him in.

The Bucks made Henson a backup center, and he’s been one of the best relief bigs in the entire NBA. Debating Henson’s deal in terms of giving someone expected to be a backup that much money is another story, but it’s really too early to make a call on that either.

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Greg Monroe is only guaranteed to be a Buck for one more season, meaning Henson could very well end up being a starter for three of the four years he’s making that $44 million over.

Having that good of a backup plan in case Monroe does decide to skip town after next season is hard to put a price tag on. Even looking at Henson as a great backup is missing the big picture–he’s also Moose insurance.