Tenth Pick Tournament Round One: John Henson vs. Royce White

Published: June 8, 2012

Round One of the Hornets247 Tenth Pick Tournament continues with Joe Gerrity discussing UNC’s John Henson and Jason Calmes discussing Iowa State’s Royce White.

Royce White

(By: Jason Calmes)

With the presumed selection of Anthony Davis by the Hornets with the first overall pick, a power forward drafted in the tenth slot will be a backup and complement to the potential hall-of-famer. Also, this new big man may be sharing the front court with one of Jason Smith, Emeka Okafor, and Gustavo Ayon for a couple of years.

So which of these All-American Honorable Mentions fits with these specific players: UNC’s John Henson or Iowa State’s Royce White?

Henson is projected by many NBA experts to be selected well before White, but those projections, of course, totally ignore the Hornets in terms of who they are and will become. It takes a Hornets expert to wonder why would we draft a 6’10” 215 lbs. big man and pay him $2.2m when we already have guys measuring at 7’0” 240 lbs., 6’10” 250 lbs., and 6’10” 255 lbs.? By the way, two of these are being paid $1.5m and $2.5m.

Uniformity at a position may be tempting, but variety in player build and skill set is essential in the modern NBA, and we already have a guy that is more talented at being tall than Henson. His shooting from the line and the field and rebounding in the pros surpasses those of Henson in college.

Also, Henson is not a master of any skill. He’s a very good player, and a good defender . . . in college. His 21.5 year old frame, however, is not going to get much bigger, so he can only pack on muscle and hope to approach the size of the bigs already on the roster, unlike the recently-turned-19 Davis. Henson may be Diet Davis now, but he’ll be Davis Zero in due time.

Henson is just out-Hensoned on our team.

Royce White is a different animal.

At 6’8” 260 lbs, he’ll be the guy pushing the 215 lbs. Hensons around next season. No Hornet comes close to this guy’s density, and this will come in handy when we need to handle Big Baby (Tiger), etc.

Royce gets (per 40 pace adjusted minutes for all counts), 11.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks compared to the 3” taller Henson’s 12.4 rebounds and 3.6 blocks. One the other side, however, White’s true shooting percentage of 54% and 1.5 steals compares favorably to Henson’s 51% and 0.7, balancing the scales.

Speaking of stats, Royce led his team in points, rebounds, steals, blocks, and assists. Oh, assists . . .

Royce’s 6.3 assists led power forwards in the NCAA this year, with second place netting 5.2, is good for second most in the past decade. Combining this with his steal numbers, we have to be impressed with Royce’s 11.5” wide hands and his mind that taught those largest-at-the-combine hands to play the piano and conduct a basketball orchestra. His facilitator role fully contextualizes his comparatively high turnover rate and foul rate: He’s not your ordinary power forward, like Henson.

This also makes him the best backup for Davis, another forward with great ball-handling skills. A proper backup lets a Davis-based system be fully installed and helps to preserve the young star, something Chris Paul could not benefit from here.

Royce White is a different animal.

Though both players are 21, Royce has only played one year compared to Henson’s three, and the above numbers come from Henson’s most recent year. Royce spent 2.5 years away from basketball stemming from legal problems at his home state’s flagship school, the University of Minnesota, in Minneapolis. His generalship of the Cyclones, recent loss of 10 lbs, the Hornets’ pace, and his role as a backup will effectively mitigate any conditioning concerns as he takes his playing streak to two seasons.

Additionally, Royce was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, which manifests itself in at least a fear of flying, which he effectively deals with. His interviews have impressed decision-makers. As always, some reports have been exaggerated, and the bogeymen are staying under the bed. Additionally, Royce has had no legal issues since the birth of his son, Angelic, and the blossoming of his off-court life.

Royce White is a different animal.

Royce Alexander White is raw, sure, but just means he has potential. With Henson, what you see, which is impressive, is what you get . . . and what you already have . . .

Is more of the same what we want? Teams just don’t win titles by making it easy to predict their offense and defense. They win them being able to take on all comers. This requires, in additional to a top talent, variety and virtuosity in the supporting cast. I invite you ponder roles of variety and virtuosity in recent NBA champions before casting your vote on which of these two to add to the Hornets.

John Henson

(By: Joe Gerrity)

Royce White can handle the rock, drive the lane, elevate, grab boards, score with his back to the basket, handle himself on defense, and make some sick passes. He’s the kind of college player that makes your eyes bulge and your brain race—He could be the next great thing. He could revolutionize the way we look at the point-forward position. He could… He could…

He won’t.

If last year is any indication of the future, White is a guy who needs to have the ball in his hands to be effective. When he was on the floor the offense ran through him, and for good reason—He struggled when it wasn’t. Only 20% of his offense came from cuts, being the non-ball handler on the pick-and-roll, or spot up shots. White shot 29.4 % as a jump shooter last year. He hit only 31.3% as a spot-up shooter.

So his value off the ball is… let’s say limited at best.

So let’s give him the rock, you say? Even as an older, physically developed big man in college, White shot only 53.4 percent. At first glance his passing numbers look great—he had five a game—but that must be taken with a grain of salt because of his 3.8 turnovers.

Right off the bat it will simply be destructive for the Hornets to put the ball in the hands of a guy whose offensive game is clearly limited by an inability to hit from the outside. College players are a lot less capable of taking advantage of their oppositions’ weaknesses than their professional counterparts. It won’t be too hard for the top coaches in the NBA to figure out that you need to keep him outside. If you do that, you render him ineffective. His only real options will be the useless jumper or to utilize the pass, which as I’ve mentioned, frequently winds up in the hands of the opposition.

The jumper is years away, and until he gets one he’s just not going to be an effective player for a good team. DeMarcus Cousins light, maybe, but is that really what we need going forward?

Off the court he was kicked off his college team in Minnesota, had multiple run-ins with the law, and has a fairly serious case of anxiety which causes a fear of flying among other things. I mentioned before that sometimes adversity can make a player stronger, but in this case there isn’t much evidence that White really grew up all that much from his experiences. He’s never had to embrace a role as anything but a number one guy, and because of his anxiety it’s unclear how he’ll respond to the pressure of playing and traveling in the spotlight of the national media, especially if/when he’s riding the pine.

Did I mention he’s short (6’7 at the combine)? So. Sick. Of. Short. Bigs.

In the end there are simply too many potential hindrances to Royce White’s development to risk taking him with the 10, especially when the alternative—John Henson – is so much better.

Henson is 6’10 with a 7’6 wingspan. He’s been referred to as Anthony Davis light, and if you look at his blocking and foul numbers you’ll see why. He averaged nearly two blocks per foul, and pulled down 10 boards per 29 minutes of action. The guy is a long, super athletic, defensive-minded big man with developing offensive skills.

While I hesitate to call anyone a sure thing, there isn’t much stopping Henson from being a defensive force in the NBA aside from his build. He’s currently rather skinny, but has already added 10 pounds of muscle this summer and plans to continue to bulk up. While he won’t be physically able to bang down low with the bigs in the NBA for a few years, his length and athleticism will give him the advantage in the long run. That is, after all, what we’re really building toward.

On the perimeter his defense is NBA-ready from day one. He possesses the ability to follow jump shooting power forwards outside, using his length to disrupt their shot. Combine his length with his quickness and he’s capable of staying with and keeping guards there as well. Similarly, opponents can forget about trying to pick and roll on him as his skill at changing directions, again combined with length, allows him to trap hard and still recover.

Henson’s offensive game is a work in progress, but he’s greatly improved his post game in his three years at UNC. Among other things, he’s developed a solid move–his unorthodox left handed hook shot, which he utilizes more often than his natural right hand. That he’s capable of using both hands bodes well for his future development.

Also working in his favor is, again, his length. While he’s not the best trash man in the world, he pulls enough offensive rebounds to get his fair share of put-backs. Additionally his long strides and straight-line speed result in quite a few transition buckets for the big man.

All in all you’re looking at years of “potential”, or years of a solid defensive player with the tools to be effective on offense as well.


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