The Case for Hendo

With the recent news that Eric Gordon might be visiting the Bobcats later this week, and the free agency period in full force, many Bobcats fans have pondered Gerald Henderson's future with the Bobcats. It seems most everyone agrees that Henderson is assuredly not part of our long term future plans, at least not as the Bobcats' starting shooting guard. If anyone knows me, I'm not particularly privvy to blatant homerism, and, most importantly, try to back up any opinions I have with statistical analysis.

Well I'm here to tell you that Gerald Henderson probably is, and should be, part of our long term future. For starters, he's only 24 years old and, statistically, he's a top 10 starting shooting guard in the league. Can we do better? Surely. Is it likely? Not very. For some fans, the grass is always greener on the other side, and when you're coming off one of, if not the, worst season in NBA history, it certainly seems like a viable option. However, Gerald Henderson was unquestionably our best player last season, despite missing 11 games in an already lock-out shortened season. Last year had very few bright spots, merely twinkles, with only the noted improvement of Kemba Walker and Byron Mullens as the season progressed, as well as the shattered expecations that Bismack Biyombo brought, going along with Henderson's heady and consistent play.

Most everyone on this site, and around the league, considers Gerald Henderson a great defender. Some have thrown around the term elite, but I certainly won't go that far. Henderson averaged just under a steal per game, but it was his opponent FG% numbers that set him apart from the rest of the league. The Bobcats allowed the opposing team to score a staggering .475% . That number, with Henderson on the floor, was a slightly lower .468%. However, head to head, Gerald Henderson's match-ups had a .341 FG%. That's the one stat about Hendo's defense that IS elite. More importantly, Gerald Henderson held his match-up to a greater than 10% (or lower, depending on how you want to look at it) drop in FG% on average. (I don't have the numbers to compare what the average FG% of all of his combined match-ups was and it would take way too long to try and compute that. ESPN provides me the rest of these statistics in their advanced stats section.) Only Dwayne Wade and Paul George (maybe a little surprisingly?) can say this.

Hendo isn't strictly a Tony Allen-esque defensive SG, though. His 15.1 point per game was good for 11th in the NBA in players who qualify as a SG, and Eric Gordon only played 9 games. When you expand that out to per 48 minutes, he's an underwhelming 27th Certainly better than the league average, but near the bottom of starting shooting guards. However, when you take into account that we were dead last in team scoring with 87 PPG, his 21.8 per is pretty impressive, as is his 15.1 PPG (18% of the Bobcats total scoring). That's sixth among all NBA shooting guards.

Henderson struggled mightily with his three point shooting, there's no question about that. In today's league, you certainly want your shooting guard to be able to hit the three, but two of the top 5 shooting guards of all time, Michael Jordan and Dwayne Wade, also struggled from beyond the arc. Henderson is 18th for his position in FG%, but he is 6th among starting shooting guards(or SG with starter's minutes, ie Harden and Ginobili). Only Dwayne Wade, James Harden and Aaron Afflalo scored my points than Henderson and shot at a higher %.

Another thing that sets Henderson apart is his turnovers, or lack thereof. Henderson averaged only 1.8 turnovers per game, and 2.6 per 48, which on the surface doesn't seem especially stellar, as it's 58 out of 113 players who played SG or GF. However, when you take usage % into consideration, a number that estimates the the percentage of team plays used by Henderson while he was on the floor, and also compare that to his turnover % (22.8% usg, 9.63% TO), he is in the top 25% of the entire league in usage percentage, yet in the top 17% of turnover %. Better still, he's 3rd in that differential among ALL NBA shooting guards (only Michael Redd and Anthony Morrow, now both simply spot up shooters, are better). So despite having the ball in his hands an awful lot, he doesn't turn the ball over frequently.

Gerald Henderson is also quietly a top 10 rebounder for his position. His 4.1 rebounds per game are good for 6th in the league among all SG's. All of his rebounding percentages (offensive, defensive and total) are above the league average for his position. His total rebounding rate is 20th among shooting guards with at least 20 minutes (regardless of # of games played), but his total rebounding rate is 4th among players with 30 minutes per game or more. (Both his defensive rebounding rate and offensive rebounding rate are 3rd in this category.)

So Hendo is a top 10 scorer for his position, a top 10 rebounder, and, of course, a top 10 defender, while being surprisingly efficient with the ball and having a high basketball IQ. Does his game still need improvement? Certainly. He is a poor facilitator, definatley needs to work on his range, and could stand to get to the line more (although he was 10th in that category as well). While his man defense is solid, as is his zone positioning, he needs to improve his rotational and help defense. He also needs to be more consistent offensively, and work on finding the most effective balance between offensive and defensive hussle.

However, in terms of "bang for your buck", only Paul George can compete. We're getting top 10 production out of Gerald Henderson while only paying him just over 3 million next season. His qualifying offer is just under 4.3 million. The top 10 salaries for shooting guard in the league all make more than 8.5 million a year. Realistically, I expect Gerald Henderson to command around 7 million in free agency after next season. Even if he were going for 10 million a season, given his level of production, that's a worthwhile investment, in my opinion. Certainly better than the cadre of upcoming free agents and better than most anyone we could trade for.

So next time you see the Cats' roster and think complete overhaul, that Gerald Henderson is just as expendable as the rest of the roster, take a second to consider this post. Consider his stats. Statistically, Gerald Henderson is a top ten shooting guard in the NBA. Homerism doesn't account for that.
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