In Henderson's four years in Charlotte since being drafted 12th overall in 2009, he's gone from an eight minute-per-game player who saw just 43 games as a rookie to a starter who has been able to improve his numbers from year-to-year. Josh McRoberts withstanding, Henderson led the Bobcats in True Shooting Percentage this season and showed flashes of being an intuitive defender. Finally, the only other guard/forward to average at least 15 points per game, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists on 44 percent shooting from the floor and 33 percent from three was LeBron James. Okay, that's true, but an absolutely ridiculous comparison, even for my standards.
Still, despite Henderson's incremental improvement, the Bobcats elected not to tender him an offer for next season and will consequently enter restricted free agency this summer.
Perhaps it's because Henderson has missed 14, 11, and 14 games each of the last three seasons and he's only 25 years old. That amounts to being hurt 17 percent of the time, and while it's not too many games, it may be enough to make the Bobcats look for a more durable player who has a similar level of production or better. On top of that, he was drafted by Rod Higgins, not current GM Richard Cho, so he may not be a "Cho Guy", which may sound dumb but these things matter to a team's decision-makers.
Yet, Henderson was still the most productive shooting guard the team had. All right, fine. Ben Gordon was the only other real shooting guard on the roster, but Henderson was still a valuable player for the team, nonetheless. Considering the Bobcats will be looking to continue to improve as a team, not re-signing Henderson will mean that they believe that they can upgrade the position via the draft or free agency.
If the Bobcats decide that they aren't enamored with any of the wings in the draft or blown away by free agent guards in the same tier such as Randy Foye or Martell Webster, then bringing back Henderson would make sense. But it only makes sense if it's on a team-friendly, flexible deal that doesn't inhibit their ability to improve the roster down the road. Considering he has improved each year, a two-year deal with an option for a third year at about $3-$5 million (Which amounts to a small raise from the $2.8 million he made in the last year of his current deal) isn't extravagant while also being a tradeable contract. Additionally, if Henderson continues to improve into more of a true three-and-D (three-point threat and defender) player then he looks like a great bargain. And if those nagging injuries persist or worsen, the team doesn't have a bunch of money tied up in an expensive long-term contract.
Bringing back Henderson would bring the depth and, potentially, the salary cap flexibility they need to continue to improve as a team. At the age of 25, he is still capable of improving, and at this point he's still better than any prospect. But such are the risks you take in letting Henderson go to put your trust in a 19-year-old draft prospect with the potential to turn out better than what you have currently.
Last season was a contract year and with the infamous contract year production, but although there's always going to be that red flag, I'm not sure Henderson's strong play can automatically be disqualified from improvement.
Gerald Henderson could be great value to a team in need of a bargain, but he is not without the question marks to make the decision to retain him difficult and quite contested among fans.