Milwaukee wisely passed on committing to either Brandon Jennings or Monta Ellis on a lucrative, long-term free-agent deal this summer. (Jennings signed with the Pistons, while Ellis went to the Mavericks.) But now the Bucks are stuck with a middling roster. There are no evident stars in the mix; even the best players—shot blocker Larry Sanders and free-agent guard O.J. Mayo—are merely quite good, and the rest of the roster is short on upside.
John Henson is one of the few exceptions. He, too, is no superstar in the making, but he holds the potential to be a two-way difference-maker—more than can be said of Sanders or Mayo. The key is unlocking Henson's length: He is 6'11", but his wingspan measures a whopping 7'5". That reach allowed him to grab 12.9 rebounds per 36 minutes last season despite his slight, 220-pound frame. It gives him the means to drop hook shots over the outstretched arms of a defender. It bodes well for the defensive player he could become with more playing time and sound instruction.
All of which is to say that the ceiling for the 22-year-old power forward is a pleasant unknown. Henson hasn't yet met the burden of proof that comes with playing regular minutes against better competition, but he has shown enough promise to warrant patient optimism—and to see those minutes increase.
COACH LARRY DREW (1ST SEASON WITH BUCKS)
2012--13 RECORD 38--44 (3RD IN CENTRAL)
WHAT'S NEW Drew, let go by the Hawks, takes over a team that could have as many as 11 fresh faces.
PROJECTED LINEUP (2012--13 STATS)
PG BRANDON KNIGHT
13.3 PPG; 0.8 SPG; 40.7 FG%; 36.7 3FG%
SG O.J. MAYO
15.3 PPG; 4.4 APG; 44.9 FG%; 40.7 3FG%
SF CARON BUTLER
10.4 PPG; 2.9 RPG; 42.4 FG%; 38.8 3FG%
PF ERSAN ILYASOVA
13.2 PPG; 7.1 RPG; 46.2 FG%; 44.4 3FG%
C LARRY SANDERS
9.8 PPG; 9.5 RPG; 2.8 BPG; 50.6 FG%
PG LUKE RIDNOUR
11.5 PPG; 3.8 APG; 45.3 FG%; 31.1 3FG%
ASSIST-TO-TURNOVER ratio of PG Brandon Knight last season with the Pistons, which ranked 79th in the NBA. His averages (4.0 APG, 2.7 TO) were identical to Bulls center Joakim Noah's.
A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP THE BUCKS
They picked up a lot of pieces that were unimportant to other teams, so they just have a collection of parts right now. I don't know if they're in the Andrew Wiggins contest or what.... O.J. Mayo is a good player for 20, 25 minutes a game. When people have depended on him, he hasn't come through.... If Carlos Delfino had been worth keeping, you would think he would have stayed in Houston, because they need shooters on the perimeter around Dwight Howard.... I don't see a lot of offensive potential in Larry Sanders. He does not have great hands, and he's not like Andre Drummond, who you can lob to for a dunk. Scott Skiles is a pretty good coach and there was a reason why he wasn't playing Sanders as much. When an interim coach comes in, a player like Sanders gets a lot more leeway. I think everything changes with an established coach who has a definite plan.... At the four, John Henson needs to be a face-up player. Ersan Ilyasova is not a three—he has to face up too. It will be interesting to see which one comes off the bench. Ilyasova can shoot threes and Henson cannot, but Henson can make 18-footers and rebounds better. I think either one of them can play off Sanders.... Luke Ridnour should be the starting point guard. He pushes the ball, he doesn't turn it over and he's a consistent three-point shooter who plays with pace.... Larry Drew appears to be a guy who holds players accountable. I don't think he's ever going to win a championship, but he's a good, playoff-level coach.
BARRY GOSSAGE/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (HENSON)
GARY DINEEN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (ILYASOVA)