As the draft draws closer, let’s take a look at Kansas freshman Xavier Henry and what he brings to the table.
There’s a lot more that goes into being a good shooter than the actual act of shooting — a ton of work is done before the ball even arrives, and Henry shows a keen understanding of this already. When there’s penetration, Henry does a great job of relocating on the wing to create a passing lane and to distance himself from his helping defender. He’s always square to the rim and always ready to shoot, and his release is the same from 15 feet all the way out to NBA range. Offensively you can tell Henry is most comfortable in a spot up shooting role, as over 40 percent of his offensive looks last season came from those types of situations. For defenders that over-compensate for his 41 percent three-point shooting, Henry has a nice pump fake and one dribble pullup that’s very under control. As a shooter, Henry is incredibly solid.
At the rim
Henry is a polished shooter, but his ability to attack the rim is still pretty questionable. The big problem Henry has is that he abandons his dribble far too early and leaves his feet much too soon, often resulting in hanging floaters when he should be going strong to the tin. Henry is a great athlete on the college level, but he lacks that explosiveness you see from wing slashers in the NBA. When the size and athleticism ratchets up a notch, it’s tough to see Henry as a real good finisher on the next level because of that.
Henry may not “wow” anyone, but his game looks NBA ready because he’s so smooth and so intelligent in the halfcourt setting. In just a short time at Kansas, Henry had a firm grasp of the Jawhawks’ offense, always moving to the open spot on the floor while maintaining proper spacing. While he may not be dynamic off the dribble or at the rim, Henry’s offensive game is polished and he’s already proven he’s capable of taking the backseat in terms of shot attempts. Because he doesn’t force the action much Henry has been tabbed as lacking aggressiveness, but as a jump-shooter first and foremost, he understands that the game needs to come to him. All in all, Henry is one of the smarter players I’ve seen on tape yet.
Defensively off the ball
Probably the biggest strength of Henry’s game outside of his shooting abilities is his defensive play off the ball. Henry really gets after it, flying through off ball screens and using his lengthy wingspan to deny lots of passes. Again, it’s more instincts and intelligence with Henry than pure athleticism, but Henry is quick on the court and has good end to end speed that allows him to break on lazy passes and play center field really well. His potential as a team defender grades out really well on the next level.
Defensively on the ball
Henry stays a little high in his defensive stance, but he’s a physical defender who uses his lower body really well to pressure penetrating ballhandlers. There’s some question whether the 6-foot-6 Henry could guard NBA small forwards and co-exist with Eric Gordon, but Henry has a really solid frame and is enough of a bulldog to take on bigger players.
Best Case Scenario: John Salmons
Salmons may not be flashy, but he’s a proven scorer who relies mostly on efficeint perimeter shooting for his buckets. While Salmons is far better right now at creating his own shot, it’s not hard to see Henry developing into a tough perimeter defender who can spread the defense with his jumper.
Worst Case Scenario: Arron Afflalo
Afflalo is a nice player in the “3 and D” mold, and at the very least Henry should be able to fill a similar role. There’s a million guys in the league like Afflalo and Henry who have stuck around for a long time and been valuable role players on good teams.
Henry’s ceiling is relatively low because he’s yet to show he can consistently create shots for himself. Part of this may be due to his role on a loaded Kansas team, but it appears his lack of ballhandling, playmaking, and explosiveness will lead him to be a role player, at least early on in his career. The good news is that Henry’s floor is high. In just one year he proved he’s a good enough shooter and defender to warrant consistent playing time on the next level. Henry’s talent isn’t overwhelming, but he looks capable of being a solid pro.