Player Comparisons: John Henson


In my mind, John Henson is an underrated college player. The reason that I feel he is underrated is because the Tar Heels have other big named prospects such as Harrison Barnes, Kendall Marshall, Tyler Zeller, and James Michael-McAdoo. But I think that the Henson might have a better career than all of them. Here’s why:

Henson had the opportunity to leave for the draft two years ago when he finished his freshman season at Chapel Hill. But he decided to stay for his sophomore season. Last year he the opportunity to leave for the draft after he had been named ACC Defensive Player of the Year, but he decided to come back for another year, and again, he won ACC Defensive Player of the Year. Despite missing the ACC tournament and a first round game in the tournament this season, Henson took home All-ACC honors and improved his game tremendously.

From his freshman season until now, Henson has become a consistent player and leader of the defense. Over the past two seasons, Henson has averaged three blocks per game while shooting 50% from the field and averaging a double-double. A lot of people are in love with Anthony Davis, rightfully so, but people are over-looking Henson. His length and athleticism are something that GM’s should want. His ability to block shots as well as he does is something to be desired. His ability to gobble up rebounds is something to be desired. In the first game of the season against Michigan State, Henson had 12 points, seven rebounds and nine blocks. In a loss against Duke, Henson had 12 points and 17 rebounds.

At 6’11 and 220 lbs, Henson is longer than Davis but not as athletic. I like Henson’s maturity and that he stayed in college for three years to develop some of his skills. His free-throw shooting is still poor (51%) so he needs to improve that, but I think this kid has a lot of potential. His post-game has improved every season and he is more comfortable with his back to the basket. He can hit short, little jump-hooks with both his right and left hand. He can step out to 15-17 ft to knock down shots. No one is blocking his shot either because of his length.

Now, he needs to improve the consistency of his jumper before the draft. He needs to show GM’s that he can consistently knock down shots from 10-15 ft in order for him to jump on their board.

The other side of his game is something that should have GM’s drooling.

Henson is one of the best post and overall defenders in the country. Thanks to his athleticism and size along with his ability to move on the perimeter, make him nearly impossible to get past. He is great and jumping out on pick-and-rolls (which is what most of the NBA is). While he might not have the physical strength, right now, to handle big power forwards in the post, he should have the ability to play guys out on the perimeter. I am not saying he is going to lock-up Dirk Nowitzki or Kevin Love, but he should be able to keep up with them. He is always playing with a high-motor and never seems to tire defensively and, like I mentioned earlier, he is a really good rebounder. Because of his tremendous length and athleticism, Henson has a very big rebound-radius. He is able to go get rebounds that other players aren’t able to get. I am not going to say that he is Kevin Love or anything when it comes to rebounding because Henson is more athletic than Love, but both have a big rebounding radius.

To summarize the previous paragraphs, Henson’s defense is well ahead of his offense. He will be an impactful defensive player right away and whatever you get from him offensively, be glad. I think that his offense will come along, though.

So who does he remind me of or who do I compare him to?

When I see Henson’s length, it reminds me of DeAndre Jordan and JaVale McGee. Jordan and McGee are physically bigger and more athletic. I see some Kevin Garnett in Henson. When Garnett came into the league, he showed the ability to guard players on the perimeter and I think Henson has some of that ability in him. He won’t be the offensive player or MVP that Garnett once was, but defensively, Henson reminds me of Garnett.

Because Henson is a work-in-progress offensively, I am going to compare him to a few players, with the first one being Serge Ibaka. Ibaka has some decent post-moves and can finish above the rim. Ibaka has shown the ability to knock down mid-range jumpers, but not consistently. I think Henson is already better with his back to the basket than Ibaka. That’s where Rasheed Wallace comes in. I know, I know, you are probably thinking “Is this dude crazy!? RASHEED WALLACE?!” Yes, Henson does remind me of ‘Sheed, without the attitude and three-point shooting ability.

Here are a few things they have in common:

1. Both went to North Carolina.

2. Both are 6’11 and around 220-230 lbs.

3. Both were streaky scorers

Henson will be a better rebounder and overall defender than Wallace ever was. Wallace was a tough, physical player in the league. Henson is a bit more timid, but I think he has some nastiness to him. Henson won’t be the three-point shooter that Wallace was, but I think he can add a mid-range jump shot to help his offensive game.

I think if you combine Garnett and Wallace, you will end up with a first-ballot Hall of Famer. I don’t think that’s Henson. I think Henson has some qualities of both and should make a good professional.

Like I said in the opening paragraph(s), Henson is being overlooked. I think he will turn out to be one of the best players, down the road, in this draft.

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