Our run through the likely draft prospects of the Portland Trail Blazers ends today with a couple of tantalizing forwards. In case you've missed our earlier rundowns, here's the list:
Thomas Robinson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist || Bradley Beal || Andre Drummond || Harrison Barnes || Jeremy Lamb and Dion Waiters || Damian Lillard || Austin Rivers || Kendall Marshall || Tyler Zeller, Meyers Leonard, and Jared Sullinger
John Henson is a 6'10", 216 lb Junior power forward from North Carolina. (But then again, who in this draft isn't from North Carolina? Except the guys from Kentucky.) The first thing to know about him is that while his height says LaMarcus Aldridge, his wingspan screams Manute Bol. Seriously, he measured at 7'5" in that department. He'll not be asking anyone to pass the potatoes at team dinners. "I'll just grab that myself, thank you."
Dude. That wasn't even our table.
Henson is good in most of the areas you'd expect with that kind of length. He's a shot blocker. He's a great rebounder. He's darn near sinister on the move defensively. If you look at the total package, ability and potential, he may be the most gifted defender in this draft outside of Anthony Davis. On offense he can finish near the rim without much elevation. When he does leap (because he can) it's almost unfair.
You can probably already tell by his combination of weight (216) and length that he's neither the bulkiest nor strongest big guy available. He needs to put on muscle and then learn how to use it. Most of his deficiencies revolve around strength. He's not good one-on-one defensively against big or strong players. The jury's out as to whether that's a passive mindset or lack of leverage. He's also a poor shooter when you get him away from the bucket...say as far as the free throw line where he barely cleared 50% last year. He'll take a jumper but his form is sideshow. He's not inept offensively, he just needs to clean up his game beyond 10 feet.
The combination of length, defense, and potential could make Henson attractive to the Blazers. They'd want to get him in the weight room and see where he could go. On the other hand, he's projected as a four and probably stuck there. You could convert him to center with that rebounding but unless he gained plenty of strength he'd be overmatched. Since they aren't ready to replace LaMarcus Aldridge and already have a couple of good defenders at small forward and shooting guard, this would be a Best Player Available type of pick for Portland. On the other hand, given their talent level, that's probably exactly what they should do. The possibility is open.
Perry Jones III
When pundits describe this as a deep draft, they're not just talking about the top 6-7 players all being solid or full of potential. They mean that guys like Henson and Perry Jones III are going to be left over near the end of the lottery. Jones stands 6'11", 234 lbs. He's a Sophomore from Baylor. And his upside is sky-high.
When you see the 6'11" Jones dribble you will stop in your tracks, guaranteed. Then you're going to rewind the tape. Normally we'd say a guy this tall with good handles dribbles like a guard. Jones dribbles like a Harlem Globetrotter. He's also quick, athletic, can score inside or out, and he can finish with the best of them. He's not really a three-point threat and his free throw shooting is both mediocre and infrequent for a player of his ability, but those are the only things he can't do...and even then he's more "meh" than bad. If this guy gets some confidence and a couple finishing moves, the combination of height, handles, and mobility is going to make him a nightmare to guard.
The thing is, that hasn't happened yet even on the college level when he had carte blanche. Nobody at Baylor would have challenged him if he wanted to be the man. The pedestal was prepared. He stayed off of it. He's knocked for consistency in effort, toughness, and his jumper. He disappears on the floor sometimes. Whatever "it" quality makes a guy a star, he hasn't found it yet. He's left potential untapped, making him a risk in the pros where he'll need every bit of it to make an impact.
Drafting Jones would require a stout stomach for the Blazers. It's high risk, high reward. The tantalizing prospect would be converting him to small forward in what could become a monstrous lineup. At the three he'd fit the recent Blazer template: long, skilled, young. If he has to play the four, however, Aldridge's superior skills would keep him off the floor and out of the offense. The payoff may not be sure enough to take him at #11, but if they did take their shot this would be one of the more fascinating selections in years. Jones would probably tantalize and frustrate in equal measure, but man, you'd never get bored.
Discuss Henson and Jones below. If you'd like to throw in someone we haven't covered, such as Washington swingman Terrence Ross (6'7" jump shooter/defender) or St John's small forward Moe Harkless (6'9" energy guy, raw athlete, lacking jumper and polish), feel free.
Final draft analysis comes tomorrow...then the draft itself. Stay tuned!