Draft notes: UNC's Henson out to prove that he's no lightweight
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The comparison question is one of the many rituals of draft season, with prospects being asked on a daily basis which current or former NBA player they most resemble.
But in the case of North Carolina power forward John Henson, he may want to call on the name of one of his contemporaries: consensus No. 1 pick Anthony Davis. The 6-11, 222-pound Kentucky power forward has inspired such grandiose projections as a likely franchise centerpiece and defensive difference-maker -- a la Kevin Garnett -- that Henson would be well served to market himself as Anthony Davis lite.
Call it draft stock drafting.
Then again, he may want to settle on a different moniker: There's enough talk about Henson's being light as it is.
The 6-11 Henson weighs 216 pounds -- or, as a colleague noted recently, six pounds heavier than Oklahoma City point guard Derek Fisher.
"That will be his issue until he develops his body," said one executive from a lottery team that is considering Henson, the two-time ACC Defensive Player of the Year who averaged 2.9 blocks and 9.9 rebounds to go with 13.7 points last season.
It's not just a matter of size, but also strength and athleticism. Henson managed just five repetitions on the 185-pound bench press at the draft combine in Chicago last week. By comparison, slender Connecticut guard Jeremy Lamb also recorded five reps, while Marquette forward Jae Crowder had a combine-high 20. (Davis did not participate in the strength drills.) Henson's maximum vertical jump of 30 inches was the third-worst mark in an exercise that Marquette shooting guard Darius Johnson-Odom led at 41½ inches.
These are the 11th-hour red flags that run the risk of taking Henson out of contention as a top 10 pick, and they matter because he'll be asked to hold his own against grown men who are both stronger and more athletic than him on a nightly basis. Still, the excitement about Davis speaks to the fact that NBA executives are desperate for dominant defensive players and may be willing to ignore these physical shortcomings. Especially if Garnett is the comparison being made. The future Hall of Famer stood 6-11 and weighed 220 pounds when he entered the NBA as a 19-year-old in 1995, and he still managed to make an impact from the start before eventually adding weight (he's now listed at 253).
For his part, the 21-year-old Henson is confident he'll be able to add to his frame.
"To put on about 15 more pounds is going to come natural," Henson said Monday after his workout in Sacramento, which has the No. 5 pick in the June 28 draft. "I'm going to also help out the process with lifting weights, eating right and hopefully the team that picks me up might get me the strength coach and we can become best friends."
The gene pool offers some hope for teams looking at Henson, whose father is 6-9 and about 240 pounds.
"He's a big dude," Henson said.
While I have Henson sliding to Minnesota at No. 18 in my latest mock draft, he'll have a chance to prove himself with a number of lottery teams (top 14) in the days to come and could certainly wind up there. He worked out with Portland (No. 6) on Wednesday and will visit Golden State (No. 7) on Thursday for a workout that will include Jared Sullinger, another power forward auditioning to be picked that high. Henson said he is also headed for Phoenix (No. 13), Houston (Nos. 14 and 16), Toronto (No. 8), Philadelphia (No. 15), Detroit (No. 9) and Cleveland (Nos. 4 and 24).
"It's going to be a long two weeks, but I'm ready for it," Henson said.
While Charlotte continues to ponder what to do with the No. 2 pick, Washington has its murderer's row of prospects coming through this week as it analyzes options at No. 3. Kansas power forward Thomas Robinson worked out for the Wizards on Wednesday, followed by Florida shooting guard Bradley Beal on Thursday and Kentucky small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist on Friday. From what I can gather, it's a tight race at this spot that also includes North Carolina small forward Harrison Barnes.
The Bobcats are expected by most team executives to either trade the pick or opt for Robinson or Kidd-Gilchrist, though one source close to the team said Charlotte is continuing to do work on "five or six" prospects.
Barnes was a combine All-Star after showcasing his athleticism (max vertical leap of 39½ inches) and speed (top time in the three-quarter court sprint of 3.16 seconds). He was scheduled for his first team workout Thursday, a solo appearance for Toronto, which has the eigth pick. Beal, meanwhile, is limiting his workouts to just the top four teams. Robinson said at the combine that the Wizards were the only team with which he was scheduled to work out and that the others were "in negotiations."
Robinson hails from Washington, D.C., and has made it clear he would love to be a Wizard despite the distractions that playing in your hometown sometimes bring. It sounds as if he made himself at home in Wednesday's workout.
"I was a lot more comfortable than I thought I'd be," he told reporters afterward. The coaching staff, he said, "made me feel as if I was already on the team."
And once again, he reiterated that he sees himself -- and not Davis -- as the prospect who should be picked first.
"As far as being prepared for the league, I think I am the best player in the draft," he said. "That's just me being a competitor. Not to take anything away from Anthony Davis. He's a great player."
Duke center Miles Plumlee is one of the big men on the rise, and the notion of his being taken in the first round isn't so far-fetched. Plumlee was the star of last month's group workout in Minnesota, not only playing well but also showing off his hops with the top vertical leap of 41 inches. He followed that up with a strong showing in Chicago, jumping 40½ inches while measuring 6-11¾ with shoes and 241 pounds.
Plumlee was at Duke last season with his two younger brothers, 6-10 Mason and 6-11 Marshall. Mason was the team's fourth-leading scorer (11.1 points) and leading rebounder (9.2) as a regular starter, while Miles was a spot starter who averaged 6.6 points, 7.1 rebounds and 0.9 blocks in 20.5 minutes. (Marshall, the youngest, redshirted.) Predictably, teams have been asking Miles Plumlee to explain why he faded so far into the background behind Blue Devils guards Austin Rivers and Seth Curry and his brother.
"It's difficult to say what it [was], but I had a role at Duke and I did whatever it took for us to win," he said at the combine. "I trusted coach [Mike Krzyzewski], had an amazing four years, got a national title, so I wouldn't change a thing.
"But at this point, it's about being selfish and putting yourself in the best position possible and showing everything you've got."
The Plumlee pitch to NBA teams? Great size, athleticism and underutilized skill. In addition to the leaping ability, he put up 15 bench-press reps (for comparison, two potential lottery picks at center, Meyers Leonard and Tyler Zeller, had 19 and 16, respectively) and showed very good speed in a lane-agility drill (his time of 10.64 seconds was better than Leonard's 11.34 and Zeller's 11.13 and much better than Sullinger's combine-worst 12.77).
"Honestly, I feel like my athleticism is top notch," he said. "I don't think there's anyone with my blend of speed, strength, explosiveness. And I have a great skill base that I've worked on since I was little -- my ball handling, all of that. I have a lot more to offer than people know."
Plumlee worked out for Washington (No. 32) on Tuesday. He is scheduled to work out for Chicago (No. 29) on Thursday, Miami (No. 27) on Friday, Charlotte (No. 31) on Monday, Indiana (No. 26) on Tuesday and then Atlanta (Nos. 23 and 43), Houston (Nos. 14 and 16), Dallas (No. 17), Denver (No. 20) and Milwaukee (Nos. 12 and 42).
Barnes' visit to Toronto was only part of a busy Thursday for the Raptors, who were planning three workout sessions. A second one was to be headlined by Duke shooting guard Austin Rivers and include second-round prospect/Iona point guard Scott Machado, and a third featured Connecticut shooting guard Jeremy Lamb with second-round prospect/Missouri guard Kim English, Mississippi State guard Dee Bost and North Carolina State guard Alex Johnson.