In a pick that surprises everybody but Kings fans, the Kings seemingly reach for North Carolina's John Henson with the 5th pick in the NBA Draft. Kings fans saw this coming for several weeks now after reports of rave reviews from his workout but it still leaves a disappointing taste in the mouths of many Kings fans. Many fans feel that Henson could have been had farther down in the draft if the Kings had really wanted him, and could have used the 5th pick on Bradley Beal and moved him for Henson and another asset. Instead, Beal goes 6th to the Blazers.
Nobody is doubting Henson's skill as a shotblocker and rebounder, but there are very big questions regarding his offensive game and whether or not his frame is too small to bang with bigger NBA bodies and whether or not he could put enough weight to do so.
Player B is Henson, and Player A is Anthony Davis, the #1 pick and the guy every team would draft in an instant. Their measurements are essentially identical, and both are primarily defensive players. Yet one is projected to be a dominant big man while the other faces questions on if he's big enough to play in the NBA.
Henson comes into Summer League ready to prove people wrong. The Kings set him up on a dedicated program with strength and conditioning coach Daniel Shapiro to add some weight. Clifford Ray also spends a lot of his offseason working with Henson and the other big men on their overall game. By the time the season rolls around, Henson is 10 pounds heavier, still light for an NBA big man, but much readier than he was before.
Right from the get go, it's clear Henson is going to be a force on the defensive end. Unlike Hassan Whiteside, the other project shotblocker the Kings have drafted, Henson seems to show a true understanding of the game on both ends of the court. From playing with a very talented North Carolina team in college, Henson has already gotten used to the fact that he isn't "the man" and can instead focus on improving the team in other ways by being the ultimate role player. He sets good screens, cuts to the basket and finishes at the rim well. Most importantly, he shows tremendous defensive ability, both on-ball and from the weak-side. Henson isn't a one-trick pony on defense either, meaning he does more than simply block shots. His lateral quickness is very good and he's able to be extremely effective in switch situations and out on the perimeter. Whenever Henson is on the floor, the Kings become a better defensive team almost by default.
Henson quickly supplants Thompson in the starting lineup simply for fit. Thompson is the better offensive player but not defensive. Henson and Cousins quickly prove to be a force together. DeMarcus has worked on his own defense much of the summer and using his very quick feet is able to keep his man in front of him, often resulting in Henson coming over from the weakside for a block or contested shot.
Henson doesn't suffer as much from rookie mistakes as some of his other fellow rookies. His three years at North Carolina under Roy Williams serve him well and he's able to mesh in seamlessly. DeMarcus affectionately nicknames him "String Bean" which quickly gets shortened to "String". Unlike the other Kings bigs, Henson does a very good job of staying out of foul trouble.
Thanks to the improved interior defense brought by Henson, the Kings record vastly improves and the team makes a late playoff push. Henson even gets some consideration for the All-Defensive teams, although he doesn't make it. That's alright though as Henson eventually becomes a perennial All-Defense team member and the first Sacramento King to win the Defensive Player of the Year award in 2017, the same year the Kings win their third straight championship after Jerry Reynolds buys the team after winning the MegaMillions jackpot in 2013.