Shot-Blocking Big Man Hopes to Finally Show His Stuff
by Joe Gabriele (@CavsJoeG)
9/16/19 | Cavs.com
We’re not usually in the business of publishing unflattering Cavaliers statistics, but if there’s one area where the team will look to improve this season, it’s in the shot-blocking department.
The Cavaliers haven’t had a player block over 100 shots since Big Z swatted 120 back in 2007-08. Last year, Larry Nance Jr. led the squad with 40 and the team as a whole finished with 195 total – last in the league – 136 blocks behind the 29th-ranked squad (Detroit) and 330 behind the league-leader (Golden State).
The Wine & Gold have a rock-solid frontline. Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, Ante Zizic and the aforementioned Nance give the Cavaliers a versatile, skilled collection of big men. There’s just not a consistent rim-protector among that group.
All the more reason for the Cavs brass and coaching staff to see what John Henson can do when he’s finally able to suit up and see minutes.
Henson was part of the three-team deal early last December that brought Matthew Dellavedova back to Cleveland while sending George Hill to the Bucks and Sam Dekker to the Wizards. But Henson spent his first season as a Cavalier wearing a cast on his left arm after undergoing surgery to repair torn wrist ligaments after suffering the season-ending injury on November 14 against Memphis.
An eight-year vet out of North Carolina, Henson had played in 405 career games with Milwaukee at the time of the deal, averaging 7.8 points on 54 percent shooting to go with 5.4 boards and 1.48 blocks.
Henson was the No. 14 overall pick back in 2012. He had his best offensive season as a sophomore when he averaged 11.1 ppg; his best defensive campaign a year later, averaging 2.01 blocks per contest.
After missing the final 68 games of the season last year, Henson will finally have a chance to show his stuff and hopefully provide the Wine & Gold the shot-blocker they’ve been missing for over a decade.
LOOKING BACK — If we’re going to take a look back at John Henson, it’ll have to be beyond last season.
In just 14 games last year, the 6-11, 220-pounder averaged just 5.6 points per, notching double-figure scoring twice, double-digit rebounds once and at least one block in each of his first six contests.
If Henson posts similar stats to his most recent full season – 2017-18 – the Cavaliers finally will have a shot-blocker to top the century mark – having rejected 109 offerings that year. He finished 12th in the NBA that year, had nine games with three blocked shots and four more with four. In 2015-16, Henson ranked 5th in the Association in blocks; he was 9th overall the previous year.
Henson can provide some offensive lift off the bench; he averaged 8.8 ppg in his final, full season in Milwaukee and has shot over 50 percent from the floor in five of his first seven seasons.
BY THE NUMBERS: 11 … three-pointers that Henson drilled in just 14 games last season, hitting 11 of those attempts to go .355 from beyond the arc.
In his previous six years in the league, Henson had hit just a single three-pointer in 13 attempts. He still has a comfortable lead over Cleveland’s other bigs: Tristan Thompson – who’s missed all nine attempts – and Ante Zizic – who’s never attempted a three-pointer.
LOOKING AHEAD — In terms of Cavaliers big men, they already have one who shoots threes in Kevin Love; and another who’s rapidly improving in Larry Nance Jr. Tristan Thompson does a little bit of everything on both ends and Ante Zizic can bang off the bench.
What they truly need is someone who can protect the rim.
We’ll learn more as Camp progresses, but early indications are that John Beilein would like to play Darius Garland and Collin Sexton together. It should be dynamic, offensively, but will also probably put some pressure on the Wine & Gold’s second line of defense.
Like several Cavaliers, Henson has the extra motivation of going into the final year of his contract. He’ll want to impress as he tries to bounce back from injury. And if he’s able to, Cleveland might have its first viable shot-blocking big man since Zydrunas Ilgauskas.