John Henson and the need to be patient

As an NBA fan/analyst/consumer/observer, you almost certainly have an opinion on John Henson signing a four-year extension with the Milwaukee Bucks. News of the agreement broke on Friday morning.

Having an opinion on Henson and his deal, in the neighborhood of $45 million, is perfectly fine. Our critical thinking and reasoning skills drive us to formulate opinions. The main focus of this particular piece is to tend to the back end of our opinions: Once we form them, we have to be open to the idea that in a few years, they might need to be changed.

That’s not a revolutionary idea, but it’s something which sports fans and analysts of every stripe must constantly keep in mind.

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John Henson, as a player and as someone who represents a certain kind of situation for a particular NBA organization, is not profoundly unique. He’s a young, long, very able defender whose offensive game is a work in progress. His deal can be measured and evaluated from a number of different vantage points, all valid and reasonable.

This is one vantage point:

This is another:

Two views, two angles, two ways to measure the value and wisdom of a given move… and those two views hardly exhaust all the views one can formulate on John Henson.

How will Henson function if (when?) Jabari Parker can play a full season? That’s an important and anything-but-peripheral question to wrestle with if you’re Jason Kidd. Milwaukee established last season that it can defend at a high level. Parker’s absence robbed the Bucks of the extra measure of scoring punch they needed to be more successful. Where Henson fits in on this team, with Parker being a central part of the mix, remains an open question. The answer to that question just might determine how high the Bucks rise in the East this season.

Yes, Milwaukee has quite a lot of length on defense. Henson might be the best shot blocker and shot-altering force the Bucks have, the linchpin of that defensive lineup. However, would his rim-protection skills stand out on a team (Miami is a perfect example) which could use a young backup big man to a much greater extent?

Value, you see, can be measured in a number of ways. It can be seen in relationship to what other players are receiving in the marketplace; it can be seen in light of a roster’s full complexion and how various pieces fit together, both in a starting five or in a nine-deep rotation. A given player might be more valuable at a given position on the court (with a specific role of starter or reserve), for a specific amount of money, depending on the team he plays for.

The value of John Henson can also be seen in connection to the division in which Milwaukee plays. Being in the same division as LeBron James and Tristan Thompson — and Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol — makes Milwaukee’s length that much more vital. Henson will have his hands full in the Central Division, but knowing he’s there against Cleveland and Chicago should give the Bucks the assurance that they won’t get pummeled in the painted area.

That having been said, one could immediately make the counterpoint that since the current scheduling format creates only 16 of 82 games in one’s own division (only 16 of 52 conference games in one’s own division), Henson might find himself in a number of matchups where his skill set isn’t as prominently or urgently needed.

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What does this John Henson deal mean for the Bucks, the Central Division, and the NBA?

You can — and should — have an opinion on this (including the opinion that caution is needed). The key is to allow for the possibility that in a few short years, your opinion might need to be reshaped… and probably will be, if we’re being brutally candid.

About Matt Zemek

Editor, @TrojansWire | CFB writer since 2001 |

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