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Can John Henson Leverage Potential Into Performance?

The Bucks' lottery pick John Henson is already a strong shotblocker and defender. But how he leverages his considerable tools to reach his potential will determine just how good he can be as a player overall.


LAS VEGAS -- John Henson was projected to be selected midway through the lottery in this year's NBA Draft after showing that he's frustratingly filled with potential over the last three seasons with the North Carolina Tar Heels. He fell to last pick in the lottery, however, before the Milwaukee Bucks decided he had too much upside not to take with the 14th overall pick.

That upside showed through when he made his Summer League debut on Wednesday afternoon inside the Cox Pavilion. The 6'11 power forward scored 20 points and grabbed nine rebounds in what was obviously a solid showing for his first professional basketball game.

The most reasoned recap came from under the SB Nation umbrella as our own Brew Hoop posted the following regarding Henson's offensive game during his NBA Summer League debut.

Bucks GM John Hammond once again spoke with the broadcast team during the game, and he mentioned the team basically expects playable defense and rebounding from Henson right away, but that he still needs to become comfortable on offense in the post and on the perimeter. The game plan on Wednesday certainly looked as if it had been tailored to make Henson feel comfortable with the ball.

The No. 14 overall pick made quick decisions (although he did get loose with his passes at times, which led to some of his five turnovers) and displayed good touch on his hook shot and fluid form on his jump shots. A reliable set of hands would be a welcome addition to the Bucks' frontcourt, and it appears Henson has them. He handled difficult passes well and quickly gathered rebounds for put back opportunities, which is where you'd expect most of his offense to come from when the real games begin.

In order to look at another angle from Henson's game, yours truly decided to sit up among the scouts in the stands to see how they felt about the rookie's potential.

"He has the chance to be a pretty special player because the things he needs to improve on aren't really things related to his skills," a scout told SB Nation while watching from the stands. "He can already rebound and block shots ... now it's all about refining the other stuff."

The "other stuff" includes adding strength so his high center of gravity isn't such a big problem -- and his low-post game is more effective -- while attempting to find an extra gear so questions about his work ethic are squelched.

"In college he pretty much just skirted by on one gear and it kind of hurt him in the draft process," the scout said. "In order to really be an effective player at this level, he'll have to show another gear so he can find some time as an energy player until the rest of his potential is reached."

Potential is always much more fun than reality, but there are things Henson can do pretty well as is.

"He has arms for days, he's an excellent shot blocker and he's a pretty smart player to boot," the scout said. "So even though he needs to work on his offensive game, it's pretty great as far as the potential he shows."

Whether Henson actually reaches his potential has yet to be determined, but he obviously has plenty of people intrigued -- and that number may have even increased following Wednesday afternoon's performance.

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