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John Henson’s Injury and the Center Rotation

With John Henson expected to miss time, the Milwaukee Bucks will have to search for options to replace him.

On Friday morning, the Milwaukee Bucks announced John Henson will be undergoing wrist surgery. The injury dates back to the November 6th game at the Portland Trail Blazers. Even though Henson played in the following games, he was experiencing discomfort. Eventually, the longest-tenured Buck was diagnosed with a torn ligament in his left wrist and the timetable for his recovery is undetermined, but should be clearer after the operation.

The recent news creates an interesting dilemma for the Bucks in regards to their center rotation. Not many Bucks’ fans think that Henson’s presence in the rotation will be missed, but that could be the case until the Bucks find a stopgap internally or externally. Henson has totaled 5.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 0.8 blocks in 13.4 minutes per game through 14 games. Most notably, the big man is spacing the floor after never shooting more than seven shots beyond the arc in a season.  Henson is a threat outside by shooting 35.5 percent on 2.2 three-point attempts a game, an oddity Bucks fans everywhere love.

Who can the Bucks install into Henson’s playing time? Brook Lopez is the one constant at center, but at 30-years-old, the coaching staff will likely not burden Lopez with more minutes early in the regular season.

Two young big men, Thon Maker and Christian Wood, have barely seen the floor yet; Maker recently powered a comeback in the close loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. Despite his energy and length off the bench, Maker shows plenty of flaws that will expose him on both ends of the floor.

The summer league standout, Wood, has most recently played for the Wisconsin Herd, playing 30 minutes with 13 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, and 7 turnovers.

One option the Bucks could use was probably generally reserved for the playoffs: Giannis Antetokounmpo-at-center lineups. Out of 425 minutes, Antetokounmpo has played this season, 35 of those came in with him potentially at center. An important caveat to note is that all of those lineups had Antetokounmpo and Ersan Ilyasova in the frontcourt.

In those limited minutes, the lineups scored 2.74 more points than their opponents. This may seem like the perfect panacea for the Bucks’ center deficit, but the coaching staff will likely not want to employ Antetokounmpo at center until the playoffs so they do not give opponents a lot of tape to watch and scheme around these lineups.

The last option would be to sign or trade for another big guy. The problem with signing someone is that they would have to open up a roster spot, which could prove to be costlier than the Bucks’ front office would feel comfortable with.

There is one guy that Budenholzer and the coaching staff have no intention of playing: Matthew Dellavedova. The Aussie point guard is making $9.6 million the next two seasons each, which is a tough contract to move. The Bucks would have to forfeit draft picks or a valuable contract to trade for a solid center. The front office should not give up draft assets or take on more salary as Khris Middleton and other Bucks are set to hit free agency this summer.

The best option is to give Maker a chance at the backup center minutes, perhaps the flashes of defensive instinct can come together, and he can become a more disciplined player. If Maker fails to show why the Bucks drafted him 10th overall in 2016, then the Bucks front office may feel ready to move on from him after this season.

Regardless of how well Maker and the rest of the Bucks fill in for Henson, nobody can replace the reason for “The Hook’s” namesake:

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