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The Specialists

John Henson's Time To Shine

by Ethan Norof
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

It’s a special blend of something on the waiver wire at this stage of the game.

The Timberwolves are missing half of their roster, so of course two show up here. The Bucks refuse to give John Henson the minutes he has earned, but he’s proving he doesn’t need a large role to make an impact. And at this rate, it’s going to look foolish to compare Dennis Schroder and Rajon Rondo with the rate at which the former’s game is improving.

Chasing stats and stuffing cats. Win the day is the phrase fantasy owners should be living by right now, and these four candidates illustrate just that.

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John Henson, F/C Milwaukee Bucks: Blocks

Like his former UNC teammate Ed Davis, John Henson is another Tar Heel who deserves more minutes at the NBA level. Having exceeded just 20 minutes twice in his last five games, Henson is a per-minute monster who does his best work when cleaning things up around the rim. Of the two games he’s exceeded 20 minutes of the five just referenced, Henson’s combined statistics: 12 points, 20 rebounds and 11 blocks. In other words, that’s 6.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and 5.5 blocks while logging 20.5 minutes per contest.

When we look at Henson’s per-36 numbers, we know that this isn’t a fluke. The big man is averaging 14.0 points, 9.1 rebounds and 3.9 blocks on 56.2 percent shooting on the per-36 scale, and that gives us a decent indication of what he could be able to do if he ever got a sustainable role that saw him log 30-plus minutes on a nightly basis. Now focused on doing the things that make him good (rebounding, rim protection) instead of attempting to be someone he isn’t on the court, Henson is someone who can really help owners in need of what he brings to the table.

Although there is nothing to suggest that Henson’s minutes are going to explode through the roof under Jason Kidd’s watch, the Bucks have four games this week—all against Eastern Conference opponents. And considering this team ends its season with games against the Knicks, Nets, Sixers and Celtics (in that order), Henson has the potential to do consistent damage down the stretch for those willing to take a gamble. If Henson can get at least 20 minutes, he should have at least two-to-three blocks and challenge for double-digit rebounds.

That’s all it takes to be a valued member of the Specialists, and that’s where Henson finds himself now. And he’s got a ton of room to grow.

Dennis Schroder, PG Atlanta Hawks: Assists

The Atlanta Hawks have clinched the top seed in the Eastern Conference, Jeff Teague is using a special therapy on his ankle to expedite the healing process and Mike Budenholzer has already reinvented his squad to be San Antonio Spurs East, so you should all know what’s coming next: It’s Schroder time.

If this kid (he’s 21) is not owned in your league, you need to run to your smartphone, fire up the app and pick him up immediately. With at least 24 minutes of action in four of his last five games and coming off of two straight double-doubles where he’s averaged 14.5 points and 11 dimes, there is little reason to discount the value Schroder is bringing to the squad right now. The sole excuse one could provide is that the Hawks take the floor just three times this week (and just once after Monday and Tuesday’s back-to-back set), so while that is something owners should consider, you can always move on from a player at this stage of the season.

The Hawks may play Teague as soon as Monday, but to expect a full compliment of minutes and action would not be a realistic projection. It’s clear the Hawks are (properly) valuing getting their guys right now with the top seed locked up, and that’s opening up a ton of opportunity for the other members of the roster to contribute in fantasyland.

Schroder won’t help you from the field (has shot at least 50 percent just twice all month), but he’s not going to burn you in the turnover category and can even contribute in the three-point category every so often after not being a threat whatsoever from distance in his rookie campaign. My book reads to show Schroder as a no-brainer addition right now, even with Teague healthy enough to play, and I’d think that those who have already got him on the team are enjoying success in their respective leagues right now.

Chase Budinger, SG/SF Minnesota Timberwolves: Three-Pointers

It was one thing to recommend Alexey Shved on a fantasy roster before his season-ending rib injury. And even though we’re in the final couple weeks of the regular season, it’s still pretty amazing to believe that we’re in a place where Chase Budinger is a top-3 fantasy option on an NBA roster. The Timberwolves are absolutely wrecked with injuries for the second straight season, and to think Flip Saunders will make any decisions that may jeopardize his team’s draft stock would be a fool’s exercise.

Kevin Martin (hamstring), Gary Neal (ankle) and Kevin Garnett are all varying degrees of day-to-day, and Nikola Pekovic (ankle), a perennial question mark, is out indefinitely—again. Ricky Rubio (ankle) was supposed to be back as soon as Monday, but he’s not going to play without limitations given all the issues he’s had this season, and he’s again doubtful on Monday. With Budinger essentially operating as the Wolves’ de facto sixth man right now, he’s taking advantage of the opportunity. Entering Sunday’s blowout loss (10 points, five boards), Budinger had registered 60 points and 10 three-pointers over his last three games (!), Budinger can add value to any roster in any format when he’s playing this way. Considering he’s played under 30 minutes in just two games since March 18 (and he had 29 in one of them), the Wolves are relying Budinger to space the floor and provide some offense for a team that desperately needs more of both.

If Martin or Neal is able to get back on the court, Budinger would take a hit, but it doesn’t sound like either are all that close. And with Neal looking unlikely to be back this year and Martin simply looking unmotivated to push himself through any kind of pain or discomfort this season, it’s unlikely Budinger’s role is going to come to a close in the near future. Minnesota plays three times this week, including the second half of a back-to-back set on Monday night. I like Budinger’s chances of staying relevant and productive through at least the first week of April. We’re in the day-to-day stage of the game right now.

Lorenzo Brown, G Minnesota Timberwolves: Steals

Much of what was discussed above for Mr. Budinger applies to Lorenzo Brown. I’m not going to sit here and suggest Brown is the most capable talent available on the waiver wire—he is not—but he has a clear path to opportunity that separates him from several other candidates one could consider bringing aboard for a late-season push. With Ricky Rubio (ankle) still doubtful on Monday after Flip Saunders expressed optimism about a possible return, Brown’s stock is right where we want it to be.

Minnesota decided not to sign Sean Kilpatrick to a new 10-day contract after his first expired, and that means even more work for Brown in the interim. Entering Sunday, Brown had three straight games of at least 35 minutes of action, and he combined for eight steals over that stretch of time with averages of 8.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.67 steals. And then on Sunday, Brown went off to the tune of eight points, three boards and eight dimes. While those numbers are unlikely to jump out of the box score and smack an owner in the face, Brown’s ability to contribute across the stat sheet while also filling it up in a key category really boosts his fantasy appeal considerably.

Brown actually had at least one steal in every game dating back to March 18 prior to Sunday, and since we’re trying to uncover value in places where other owners aren’t looking, Brown makes sense as an addition for someone who’s really not contributing anything meaningful to your roster other than name value alone.

Ethan Norof
Follow Ethan Norof on Twitter @Ethan_Norof for more fantasy basketball analysis, advice and all things Los Angeles Lakers.