Better Know a Prospect: Xavier Henry, G - Kansas

New Orleans nabbed an extremely proficient shooting guard in Marcus Thornton last June. Would they consider dipping into the wing pool again at the expense of drafting a big? Kansas' Henry brings size and length, the ability to shoot, the ability to defend multiple positions, and has been rising across various teams' draft boards. In any case, he has to be considered among our primary options at #11.

Bio: Henry was born in Ghent, Belgium in 1991 where his father, Carl Henry, played played professional basketball at the time. He eventually attended Putnam High School in Oklahoma City, OK. During his senior year of high school, ESPN rated him as the third best prospect in the country.

Henry initially committed to the University of Memphis; when John Calipari left the program for Kentucky, Henry de-committed and opted to attend the University of Kansas. Carl Henry played two years at Kansas in the 1980's under head coach Larry Brown. Henry's Memphis-Kansas swap is actually a lot more complicated than I make it out to be (as you may imagine). This story at Rock Chalk Talk sheds some light on it. Anyway, after committing, in the 2009 McDonald's All American game, Henry recorded 14 points and 5 rebounds. He played just a single year at Kansas before declaring for the NBA draft.

Stats: If Henry excels at one thing, it's shooting the ball. In high school, he shot 43% from three during his senior year. His freshman year at Kansas, Henry averaged nearly 7 three point attempts per 40 minutes (pace adjusted), connecting on 41%. Three point ability is one of those statistics that's difficult to translate from the college to NBA level. But I'd be surprised if Henry's stroke doesn't translate well. Rivals.com calls him "automatic" from the wing. 

Henry also converted 49.2% of his two point attempts, taking just 7.6 per game per 40 minutes (pace adjusted), only marginally more than his three point attempt figures. Some have questioned his ball handling ability, and while his 2.7 turnovers per 40 pace adjusted isn't the biggest red flag in the world, it doesn't do much to allay fears in that department. Efficiency-wise, Henry produced 1.18 points/possession (exactly equal to Marcus Thornton's rates as a freshman at LSU, for what it's worth). Rounding out the stats, his 0.28 FTA/possession isn't too shabby. 

At the college level, Henry appears to mostly have been a role player. This is reflected primarily in a 16% usage rate. Some of that may be due to the presence of Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich on the team- two much more established players. 

SkillsWhile Henry can indeed shoot, many have questioned his ability to create his own shot. Says Draft Express: "Henry is limited in what he can contribute in isolation situations, as he has very little in the line of advanced ball-handling skills, appears to have just an adequate first step with the ball, and really doesn’t even show much confidence or initiative pursuing straight-line drives to the basket (something that may very well make his first step appear worse than it is capable of being)."

With Peja Stojakovic and James Posey likely on the roster for just 1 and 2 more seasons respectively, maybe the Hornets could use a spot up type player. Marcus Thornton has clearly established that he can get open and create for himself; perhaps one creative wing could be enough. Still, Henry's lack of creative ability is a little alarming. 

Defensively, Henry projects to be a capable defender at the next level. He has a 6'11" wingspan, a nearly 37 inch vertical leap, and a ridiculous 4.7% body fat ratio. Draft Express indicates that Henry is more effective in the half court than in transition, but it certainly appears he has the physical tools to slot into a Chris Paul/Darren Collison/Marcus Thornton fast break attack. 

Overall: Henry should be a strong defender that can hit jumpers. In many ways, he certainly reminds me of the James Posey of a few years ago. Henry didn't exactly get many opportunities at isolation play at Kansas, so there is the chance he could develop into a sizeable, creative wingman for the Hornets. Those factors could make him an interesting pick- there is the possibility for good upside, but the associated risk isn't too much to stomach. At worst, he projects as a good role player; at best, he projects as a Paul Pierce type. 

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