Was John Henson at $44 Million Over 4 Years a Good Buy for the Milwaukee Bucks?
Yesterday, the Milwaukee Bucks signed John Henson to an extension.
Yahoo Sources: Milwaukee's John Henson has agreed to a four-year, $44M extension that could be worth $48M with incentives.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) October 2, 2015
The timing of the deal is interesting, considering that it comes in the wake of Tristan Thompson -- another backup big man that's due for a re-up -- letting his qualifying offer expire at midnight Thursday night and becoming an official holdout (something we rarely see in the NBA).
One can definitely make the case that Thompson isn't worth the $94 million over five years that he's seeking, and Henson's new deal shows why.
Henson is 24 years old and just completed his third year in the NBA. Last year, he held moderate averages of 7.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks in a mere 18.3 minutes per contest over 67 games (11 starts), while shooting 56.6% from the floor.
Those don't seem like the kind of numbers that would make a team want to shill out an average of $11 million annually, but his per-36 numbers have actually been pretty great his whole career. Over three seasons, he has averaged 15.0 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks per-36, with a 53.1% field goal mark. With an expanded role and maybe more trust from his coach, Jason Kidd, Henson could actually be a big contributor for Milwaukee for years to come, particularly on the defensive end.
Henson allowed a stingy 46.8% field goal percentage within five feet of the rim last season on 7.0 shots faced per contest. That's worth a spot in the top 10 among bigs that faced at least 7.0 attempts in that range. His 2.0 blocks per game placed him fifth in the NBA (an amazing feat in only 18.3 minutes per game), while his 4.0 blocks per 36 minutes paced the entire Association. His 5.6% Block Percentage and 98 Defensive Rating would've placed him in the top 5 in both categories as well, had he qualified by playing the minimum 1,500 minutes (he topped out at 1,228).
Other than being a solid defensive presence, his offensive production was also quite efficient, albeit in small doses. He scored 1.13 points per possession (PPP) over 80 instances in which he was the roll man in pick-and-rolls (79th percentile) and 1.35 PPP in 31 transition possessions (91st percentile). His shooting percentage has gone up in each of his first three seasons from 48.2% in his rookie year, to 53.8% in year two, to a career-high 56.6% last season.
Henson is young, long, and athletic player with oodles of upside on both ends of the floor, which makes him a great fit for the core that Milwaukee is building. And, after years of thriving in smaller roles, it finally looks like he'll get a chance to shine in 2015-16.
Greg Monroe and Jabari Parker are the most likely starters for the team at the center and power forward positions this season, respectively. But, with Zaza Pachulia (23.7 minutes per game), Ersan Ilyasova (22.7), and Larry Sanders (21.7) all gone from the team, Henson should soak up a lot of those minutes and be a big contributor for the Bucks as the first big off the bench going forward. The frontcourt rotation certainly projects to be far less muddied than it has in previous years, and Henson is the most likely beneficiary.
With that, the chance for a breakout campaign will now be Henson's for the taking -- especially with the Bucks committed to bringing Parker along slowly following his ACL tear and subsequent surgery last season. If Henson can continue his impressive per-minute production from last year, while putting up close to the 26.5 minutes per contest that he was getting the season before last, this deal could end up looking like a bargain even before the salary cap goes nova a year from now, when the deal goes into effect.