A clear path to the rim clogs up quickly anytime John Henson is on the floor.
Shots on the perimeter are often sent the other direction when trying to arc over the outstretched arm of Henson, while layups can be violently spiked off the backboard.
The 6-foot-10 frame of Henson barely tells the story of how much of an obstacle he presents the opposition.
Along with his length, Henson uses his massively long arms — as he possesses a 7-foot-5 wingspan, along with a 9-foot-4 standing reach — and 30 inch vertical leap to reject shots more frequently than anyone else in the NBA.
Once every 10.9 minutes, Henson swats a shot attempt off its trajectory to the rim, a frequency that was unmatched in the league last season.
If stretched out over the course of a full contest, Henson would have led the NBA in blocks per game, as he rejected 5.3 shots for every 48 minutes he spent on the floor.
Consistent shot blocking is one of the most rare qualities available in the league and Milwaukee didn’t want to risk losing next summer.
Instead of potentially dealing with Henson’s restricted free agency, the Bucks signed Henson to a four-year, $44 million extension a month before the deadline.
The 14th overall pick of the 2012 NBA Draft blocked 135 shots (ninth most in the NBA) while his 2.0 blocks per game was the sixth highest average.
Just two years ago, Milwaukee thought it had locked up the most promising shot blocker in the league to a long term deal, signing Larry Sanders to the exact same contract.
The pressure of becoming the focal point of a franchise, as his annual salary accounted for 17 percent of the cap, along with several off the court issues, limited Sanders to just 50 games in two years after agreeing to the extension.
Sanders retired from the NBA at the age of 26.
The same set of pressures won’t be applicable for Henson, as he has started just 43 times in 200 career appearances and the Bucks have plenty of depth in the front court.
The team used prominent first round picks on forwards Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker in consecutive seasons, then signed free agent center Greg Monroe to a three-year, $49.4 million deal this summer.
Henson played less than 20 minutes per game last season, but provided enough of a defensive impact to set a a career-high in blocks.
As the salary cap continues to rise, as it is expected to be $90 million during the 2016-17 season, the first year of Henson’s deal kicks in, Henson’s contract will only eat up 12 percent of the Bucks’ cap.
The former North Carolina star won’t be asked to play outside of his comfort zone. In three years, he has proven to be able to play without the ball, defend and block shots.
All Milwaukee requires on offense is that Henson capitalize on his length at the rim. He converted 163 shots last season, 63 came off dunks.
With 32.1 percent of his field goals coming off jams, Henson shot 56.6 percent from the field, the best percentage on the team.
Henson rarely drifted outside of the paint for a shot attempt and any notions of him becoming a stretch four will be quickly squashed, considering he has attempted just four shots from beyond the arc in his career and he has yet to convert.
While Henson spent most of his time last season playing in a limited capacity, when the Bucks were in the playoffs, he quickly became one of the most reliable options.
During the opening round series against Chicago, his playing time jumped up to 25.5 minutes per game.
Henson even demonstrated what kind of contributions he is capable of making, as he posted 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field to go along with 14 rebounds and three blocks during Game 3.
The Bucks are planning on employing a long and athletic roster to contend in the Eastern Conference. Unleashing Henson’s shot blocking off the bench gives Milwaukee an added dimension that many other teams simply can’t afford.