Bucks take North Carolina's Henson at No. 14
MILWAUKEE For the Milwaukee Bucks, it became an all-too-common sight toward the end of last season: An opposing player cruised down the lane nearly uncontested, then finished at the rim.
Hoping to make sure that doesn't happen nearly as often next season, Bucks general manager John Hammond took two steps in two days to help protect the basket: One day after trading for veteran center Samuel Dalembert, he drafted North Carolina power forward John Henson with the No. 14 overall pick in Thursday night's draft.
Hammond believes those moves will transform the Bucks' defense.
"We've done that, there's no question," Hammond said. "At the end of the season, we had a very difficult time protecting the basket. And I think right now, there's no reason for us not to have a quality shot-blocker on the floor at all times."
The Bucks then took Kentucky guard Doron Lamb in the second round, with the No. 42 overall pick. Lamb is the top 3-point shooter in school history, hitting 47.5 percent of his shots from beyond the arc.
But the theme of the night was defense for the Bucks. The 6-foot-11, 220-pound Henson averaged 13.7 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.9 blocked shots per game as a junior last season.
Henson was seen as a potential top-10 pick going into the draft, primarily because of his rebounding and shot-blocking.
He averaged 2.56 blocks per game for his career, making him the school's all-time leader in blocked shots per game. His 279 total blocks ranked second in school history behind Brendan Haywood.
But his offensive skills are limited — especially at the free throw line, where he shot 48.3 percent for his career.
"That's what he's all about right now, he can defend today and he's going to be able to rebound today," Hammond said. "He's got some work to do offensively, but we watched him play, and you can see signs of his ability."
Henson expects to surprise some people with his offensive ability.
"I think I'm better offensively than most people think, and I can show that," Henson said. "But defense is my calling card, and with those two dynamic scorers up top, I'm just going to try and fit in where I can."
Henson enters what suddenly is a crowded Bucks frontcourt.
With the addition of Dalembert at center, Drew Gooden likely moves to power forward, his more natural position. The Bucks also have a pair of defensive-minded forwards in Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Ekpe Udoh, plus a pair of developing players: 2010 first-round pick Larry Sanders and 2011 first-rounder Tobias Harris.
Hammond acknowledged that Henson is fairly similar to Udoh and Sanders.
"There are, probably, some similarities," Hammond said. "But the bottom line is, we had an issue with size, and we talked about when we added Samuel, we were hoping that we wouldn't be done in that category. We didn't think that was enough, just getting one player. Those of us that watched our team play knew that we needed one more, at least one more piece."
Another forward, Ersan Ilyasova, is coming off a breakout season but is a free agent and is expected to draw attention from other teams.
"We're still hoping to bring Ersan back," Hammond said. "We're going to start working on that on July 1. We'll see how that goes. You're talking about an unrestricted free agent."
Hammond moved to address the team's biggest need the day before the draft, making a deal with the Houston Rockets to acquire Dalembert.
The Bucks and Rockets swapped first-round picks — dropping Milwaukee down from No. 12 to No. 14 overall — and Milwaukee sent guard Shaun Livingston and forwards Jon Brockman and Jon Leuer. Milwaukee also got a future second round pick and cash considerations from Houston.
Going into the draft, Hammond emphasized that he and his staff would take the best player available in the draft, conceding that the Bucks absolutely needed to find a center after trading away the oft-injured Andrew Bogut last year. Dalembert has career averages of 8 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocked shots per game.
Before moving to get Dalembert, players believed to be of interest to the Bucks were North Carolina center Tyler Zeller and Illinois' Meyers Leonard. Both run well for 7-footers, a must on a team that wants to play with an up-tempo style powered by guards Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis. Leonard was gone by the time the Bucks picked, but Zeller was still on the board at No. 14.
"Not taking anything away from Zeller, we just felt like Henson had some of the attributes we were looking for," Hammond said.
Milwaukee also may have been looking for a shooting guard such as Connecticut's Jeremy Lamb or Washington's Terrence Ross — but both players were gone when Milwaukee's pick came up, as Ross went off the board at No. 8 to Toronto and Lamb went to Houston with the pick the Bucks traded.
When he talked to current Bucks players leading up to the draft, Hammond mostly mentioned the possibility of picking a wing player. Hammond said he didn't even mention Henson as a possibility because Hammond figured he'd be off the board.
"I didn't even tell some of those guys about Henson, because I didn't think he was going to be there," Hammond said.