It may feel weird to say, but Gerald Henderson is the "old guard" with the Charlotte Hornets. He has been in the Queen City since he was drafted 12th overall back in 2006 by the Bobcats. He has been with the team the longest out of everyone on the roster. He has seen the good (the playoff season of 2013-14), the bad (the 7-41 season of 2011-12) and everything in between.
Hendo is probably the closest thing to a consistent player that the Hornets have. Coming into this season, he had three straight years of at least 14 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists. On a team full of inconsistent and/or oft-injured players, Henderson was a welcome relief.
Unfortunately, then 2014 happened. First, the team signed Lance Stephenson in the offseason. This meant that Henderson's long-held starting shooting guard position was now in jeopardy and that he would have to fight for minutes, starter or reserve, at either the shooting guard or small forward positions. Then, Henderson suffered a hamstring strain that forced him to miss most of the preseason. So now Henderson was forced to try to get back into game shape coming off the bench, something he had little experience doing in the Association, at shooting guard and small forward as the team tried to find their best lineup.
This helped lead to the mixed bag of results that was Gerald Henderson's 2014-15 season, possibly his last in Charlotte.
Gerald Henderson had plenty of good moments this season. He set a career-high in free throw percentage, games played and was one of only 11 shooting guards to play in 80 games this season. The 33.1 percent he shot from 3 was the second-best of his career. He set new career-bests in VORP (0.3) and win shares (3.6) and close to career-bests in true shooting percentage (51.4 percent), offensive win shares (1.3) and defensive win shares (2.3).
He played in 58 percent of the team's minutes last season — not bad for someone most expected to be traded by the trade deadline — and despite ranking in the middle of the team in stats such as win shares, box plus/minus and value over replacement player, he proved to be one of the more valuable members of the Hornets when we was on the floor. When Hendo was on the court, the team had an ORtg (Offensive Rating: points scored per 100 possessions) 101.6 and held opponents to a ORtg of 102.2. When Hendo was on the bench, the team's ORtg dropped to 98.9 while their opponent's ORtg skyrocketed to 106.4.
Henderson, like many Hornets this year, tried to emphasize the three-point shot in his game. Last season, Henderson had more 3-point attempts in a season than he ever had before, and he shot at a decent clip, but the team needs someone to shoot better than 33 percent from 3 for them to be at their best. Perhaps if Henderson just tried more corner 3s...
LA = League average DST = Shot distribution
Henderson has become quite good at shooting corner 3s, particularly from the left corner. This is something the team sorely lacked all year, as it seemed Henderson was not only the one player who would make corner 3s, but was the one player who would take corner 3s. And that is when he was not pulling off the Gerald Henderson special (a post-up, turn around fadeaway jumper).
You can look at all the numbers above, so I won't go into much detail about all of them. But it does worry me that Henderson shot 18.8 percent on 3s from the top or top-left of the arc.
All in all, Henderson finished the season averaging 12.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game. Fine numbers for someone coming off the bench consistently, but that was not Henderson's role. What worries me is that we may have already seen peak Hendo.
Gerald Henderson turned 27 last December. He is entering the peak athletic years of most athlete's careers. By now, those who have watched Gerald Henderson for all six years of his NBA career know what he is and what he will do whenever he gets the ball. Heck, I named a basketball shot after him just three paragraphs ago.
He is a player that lives 17 feet and beyond from the hoop (nearly half of his field goal attempts came from there) but A, he has never shot better than 44% from there and B, more often than not, he shoots from inside the 3-point arc. Henderson has made a good amount of his offensive life in the Association via the lost art of the midrange jumpshot, which is arguably the worst shot in the NBA today. You have almost as much risk as a 3-point shot without the reward.
If he took more 3s and made those long jump shots with more consistency, he would be the ideal offensive player coach Steve Clifford has been looking for to compliment Al Jefferson. Gerald Henderson has a solid defensive game, though his lack of rebounding ability/boxing out did cost the team a few times this season, namely early on in Indiana (look away Hornets fans).
As he currently stands, Henderson would be an ideal sixth man or rotational bench player for a team. But that is not what Charlotte needs him to be — they need him to be a solid starter. How much growth does he have left in him? Is this the Gerald Henderson that we will see for the majority of his NBA career? Will he continue to grow his 3-point shot and become a consistent deep threat? This season showed steps in that direction, if nothing else.
Though it is often Kemba Walker or Al Jefferson taking shots in the closing minutes, Henderson has long been one of the team's better players in crunch time. Such was the case on April 4 when the Hornets fighting for the playoff lives and having trouble putting away a feisty Philadelphia 76ers squad.
Hornets.com has a full breakdown of the game and Henderson's crunch time clutch plays that really puts into perspective just how big that basket was.
Henderson is one of the busier Hornets off the court. He is often out in the community helping the team with events, tweeting about Duke basketball on his Twitter account or showing off parts of his life outside Time Warner Cable Arena on his Instagram account. He is pretty active, though he seems mostly to talk with current teammates and old Duke friends. But he did have one of my favorite athlete interactions of the season.
not sure that nickname works well bud https://t.co/NylWX8CQ3n— Gerald Henderson (@GhJr09) May 9, 2015
It was also recently announced that he would be joining Cody Zeller in the "Basketball Without Borders" program in Spain this offseason.
The future for Henderson is murky at best right now for anyone not named Gerald Henderson. Hendo has a player option for the 2015-16 season and has given no hints on whether he plans on returning to Charlotte or not.
He did tell Hornets.com that "(w)e have a group that I feel like can win if we put it together so we’ll see what happens. I haven’t put much thought into (the player option yet). Its just something I will figure out." That is about as much insight as anyone has gotten.
In my personal opinion, I would be shocked if he did not take the player option. It would be a one-year deal, allow Henderson to try to continue to improve and then hit free agency next year with the new salary cap.
Only time will tell what happens. For now, the new Duke graduate is enjoying life and the offseason, which he is more than entitled to.