Milwaukee Bucks: What’s happened to John Henson?

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 15: John Henson
ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 15: John Henson /

There was a time when John Henson was looked at as the Milwaukee Bucks’ future starting center. That time has since passed.

The year was 2015, and things were much, much different for the Milwaukee Bucks. The team was in the postseason, yes, but not because Giannis Antetokounmpo had become an All-NBA caliber player.

Giannis was on the team, and he was a starter, but he wasn’t ready for that burden two years ago. The Greek Freak shot less than 40 percent from the field and scored less than 12 points per game in the postseason.

Another young Buck participated in those playoffs, and although he didn’t start a single game he played more than Zaza Pachulia, one of the veterans who carried that Bucks team to the postseason (with some help from Brandon Knight).

John Henson, of course, is the player being spoken of here. Henson in 2017 is a contract more than a player, an inconveniently high amount of decimal places that makes life harder on the Bucks going forward.

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Henson in 2015 had potential. He averaged 12.5 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks per 36 minutes in that postseason, while shooting 58.5 percent from the field. There were always blemishes on Henson, even the shiny 2015 version (he shot under 40 percent from the charity stripe and committed 2.6 turnovers per 36, for example), but at that moment it seemed like the 24-year-old center was on the rise.

Pachulia ended up getting traded later, but not before Milwaukee signed Greg Monroe away from the Detroit Pistons. Henson would get paid just a few months after all of this, but 2015-16 became a lost season for him, as he played the fewest minutes he’d gotten since his rookie year.

At that point, despite lots of unfortunate happenings, Henson still held the potential of being a productive player. He had never been such a player, at least as a full-time starter on a good team, but that could be blamed more on the lack of opportunity than the lack of talent.

That excuse is gone. Although Bucks fans could be forgiven for forgetting, Henson got more starts in the 2016-17 season than he ever did before. He also scored less total points than he had in any season since his rookie year, averaging just 6.8 of them per game.

Henson got 39 starts and scored more than 16 points just twice. He never got over 20 points, or recorded a double-double, and scored literally zero points in six different games, despite getting at least six minutes in all of them.

Problems that dogged Henson didn’t alleviate, they got worse. The biggest knock on him as a player is a tendency for Henson to fall into the background more often than he bursts on to the scene — he scored less than 10 points in 45 of the 58 games he played last season.

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It’s been sadly easy for Milwaukee Bucks fans to hold his cap hit against Henson, as though it’s his fault the Bucks saw fit to give him an extension a few months after signing Monroe to a huge contract. That isn’t on Henson.

Not putting together a better season last year is, though. Henson can do some valuable things on the NBA floor — his shot blocking is an asset to a defense, and that hook shot can look unstoppable.

Right now, though, his game has yet to come together like Milwaukee bet that it would by signing him to that new deal. The added pressure along with increased competition at the big man spots hasn’t been good for Henson, who could end up being traded away with an asset just so a team will take him.

Next: Milwaukee Bucks: What’s next for the Bucks’ offseason?

That’d make no sense to Bucks fans in 2015, although many would probably have a tough time believing just how good Giannis has gotten, either. Milwaukee will have to take the good with the bad on this one.