NBA PM: John Henson a Perfect Fit for Pistons?
The NBA Draft is at its best when talent meets opportunity.
Elite players may want to be picked first overall, but the chance to succeed is ultimately a far more important factor in determining who will and who won’t live up to his potential.
Once in a great while those perfect fits are visible to nearly everyone before the draft has even taken place, and such is the case with North Carolina power forward John Henson and the Detroit Pistons—owners of the ninth overall pick.
Both Steve Kyler and I each had Henson slated to go to the Pistons in our previous mock draft and we seem to be in agreement with Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress.com and Chad Ford of ESPN.com—both of whom also had Henson pegged to Detroit.
So how did so many people come to the same conclusion?
First, there doesn’t seem to be any takers for Henson before the ninth pick. The first team that would possibly consider it would be the Golden State Warriors, who have the seventh pick, but they’re currently paying a fortune for big men David Lee, Andrew Bogut and Andris Biedrins, so they may look for a more perimeter-oriented player instead.
The Toronto Raptors, owners of the eighth pick, would be another possibility, except that they’re already developing Ed Davis, who, like Henson, is a shot-blocking big man from UNC. Besides Toronto has too many holes to add redundant players to their roster.
But in Detroit Henson has his perfect fit and that has everything to do with center Greg Monroe.
After the second-year big man out of Georgetown threw down a one-handed dunk on Nets power forward Kris Humphries at Newark’s Prudential Center on February 8th, Pistons coach Lawrence Frank joked that he wasn’t surprised because Monroe is an “above-the-rim” player.
The media laughed. For all of Monroe’s qualities, jumping isn’t one of them.
The 6-11 center averaged 15.4 points and 9.7 rebounds per game in 2011-2012, but he didn’t accomplish that by being an above-the-rim player. In fact, ESPN’s John Hollinger even wrote that Monroe is a “below-rim finisher.”
Monroe blocked just 0.7 shots per game last season, which is part of the reason why the Pistons allowed 38.5 points per game in the paint—26th in the NBA.
Most teams would consider themselves lucky to have a player as capable as Monroe, but the hard truth is he needs to be paired with an above-the-rim shot blocker.
Henson provides all that and more.
As Susan Bible wrote after Henson was interviewed by HOOPSWORLD, the former Tar Heel’s standing reach of 9-3.5 was tied for the highest at the Chicago pre-draft combine. Unfortunately, the rest of Henson’s measurements weren’t quite as impressive.
His 30-inch max vertical was average and his five bench-press reps at 185 pounds was better than only a handful of other players. The fact that Henson didn’t do the ¾-court sprint or the lane-agility test didn’t help his case either.
But you can’t ignore Henson’s final season at Chapel Hill in which he averaged 9.9 rebounds and 2.9 blocked shots per game. Considering he was playing next to solid rebounders like Harrison Barnes and Tyler Zeller, his ability on the boards might be slightly understated. Who knows how many rebounds per game he would have averaged had he played on a normal collegiate front line.
Of course, Henson wouldn’t have won as many games in college if he played elsewhere, and that pedigree should help him get drafted as well.
The Pistons will have other options with the ninth overall pick. The team could decide that Brandon Knight isn’t a true point guard and opt to pick someone like Henson’s UNC teammate Kendall Marshall. Or, in an effort to add another perimeter threat, Detroit could choose Duke’s Austin Rivers or Syracuse’s Dion Waiters.
But Henson is the only player that wouldn’t be redundant in one way or another. And since he complements Monroe, the addition of Henson could give the Pistons a real foundation to build off of.
Draft profile: Khris Middleton
As a sophomore, it appeared Texas A&M forward Khris Middleton was destined to be a solid NBA draft pick. He scored 14.3 ppg, made 36 percent of his 3-point attempts and was making 4.5 free throw attempts per game.
The Aggies 24-9 record in 2010-2011 reflected that success, and even though he stayed on for the 2011-2012 season, many that his next logical step would be the NBA.
Unfortunately, a knee injury and a chaotic season in College Station (the Aggies went 14-18) have changed the perception of Middleton significantly.
He attempted only 2.6 free throws per game, his 3-point accuracy plummeted to 26 percent and his scoring dipped to 13.2 ppg.
Now Middleton is using the pre-draft process to prove that the 2011-2012 season was a mirage.
“Right now I’m just trying to show teams I’m healthy and I’m a better player than I was last year,” told HOOPSWORLD.
“It was difficult,” he said, adding, “It was a tough season. We stuck through it and stayed together.”
Middleton, who has been told he resembles Danny Granger, Luol Deng and Paul Pierce, sees himself as a scorer, sees his “scoring ability” and “versatility” as his main assets to NBA teams.
“I think those are two things that separate me from a lot of these players,” he said, adding, “I think I can make plays with the ball in my hand and I can also spread the floor.
So far Middleton has worked out for a number of teams who he feels are “really interested” in him, including the Cleveland Cavaliers, Indiana Pacers and New York Knicks.
Chances are he’ll be a late second-round pick, but there’s no guarantees on that. The good news is that the summer leagues are back, so he’ll definitely be getting an invite somewhere. That’s why he doesn’t regret declaring for the draft.
“It was on me,” he said of the decision. “I felt like I was ready to make this move.”
Check Out: “The Announcement”
There’s been a lot of talk about the Dream Team documentary, but another interesting documentary will be seen on NBA TV tonight at 9 p.m.
“The Announcement” is a powerful film about Magic Johnson’s declaration that he had contracted the HIV virus in 1991.
The Dream Team doc will be on afterward, but if you’re looking for some hoops on an off night for the NBA Finals, both movies are probably worth your time.
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