Gerald Henderson – Working Hard in Silence
When it comes to NBA teams, even bad ones, the league’s followers typically have a general idea of how to define the roster. With the Cavaliers, the star is Kyrie Irving
and everyone else on the team follows. With the Suns, Dragic and Gortat are regarded as the best players, just not a lot comes from the other team members. However, when it comes to the Bobcats the average watcher just likes to point out that they are bad and not much else. Usually, a Charlotte player only gets noticed if they’re Kemba Walker
, or they’re Byron Mullens
or DeSagana Diop
doing something to be laughed at. Enter the oft-ignored Gerald Henderson
, arguably the teams best player.
Henderson’s basketball back story is much like his current career – in college was the leading scorer for Duke’s 2008-09 team. Even back then, he was being overshadowed by the likes Jon Scheyer, Kyle Singler, and Nolan Smith. This feeling reached it’s highest point when Henderson left college to enter the draft as a junior, while the more highly touted three took home the NCAA Championship the very next year.
As the Bobcats’ draft pick, there were good feelings about him entering the league. He was noted as an NBA ready type player who Chad Ford noted as being able to “take away the starting job from Raja Bell.” Unfortunately for Henderson’s rookie season, Charlotte went in a completely different direction in the first month of the season, trading for Stephen Jackson in November. This lead to only 43 appearances in Henderson’s rookie year, and another way for him to go unnoticed.
Gerald Henderson didn’t fall into the trap that so many young players do however, and kept working through it to earn minutes. This lead to some positive gains, as he broke into the starting line-up the next season after the Bobcats traded away their former All-Star Gerald Wallace to the Trail Blazers. The season after, Stephen Jackson would make his own way out of Charlotte, leaving the wings to be lead by Henderson.
Since then, it’s been quiet, yet consistent, improvement for the young man from Caldwell, New Jersey. He averaged 16.5 points per game while trying to will his team to victory during last season’s 23-game losing streak for the historically bad 7-59 Bobcats. Even after going through the epitome of NBA misery, Henderson was quoted in this offseason by saying this:
“I just try to lead by example, If I can go out there and set a tone for our team, then the guys will follow. We have a lot of other guys with leadership qualities on the team, so I’m going to go out there and try to do my part.”
Some guys in the league quit on teams that aren’t even all that bad, and yet he is talking about a leadership role on arguably the worst team in history. Henderson last year was scoring slightly more with 15.1 points per game, but it came with a lower PER (14.0) and more minutes. Now his PER is 16.5, considered to be above league average, which is truly impressive when you take into consideration the role he’s playing on a team that is about to finish last again.
Improvement doesn’t stop for Gerald, and most of all this year you can see it in the change in his jumper from this year to next. Here is video of Henderson’s jumper last season, which was easily considered his weakest skill in the NBA.
In case you don’t see any difference in real time, there is always this photo for help. Henderson would struggle with a consistent release because he put the ball right above his head, and would end up leaving there.
Now as a comparison, there will be an upcoming video of Henderson’s jumper this year. Henderson has only improved by about 1.5% from mid range but has seen a massive 13.1% jump on his three point shooting percentage. He is also taking the three at a slightly higher rate with the growing comfort in it. The first thing that you notice is the fact Gerald starts off in a similar position, but as he goes on through the motion doesn’t hold the ball directly above his head, which is definitely a key change. Placing the ball in an improved position gives Henderson a consistent release, which is vital as it makes the trajectory on his shot much more consistent.
Henderson also features a wide variety of skills in his tool box. He always has been good at taking it to the hoop, which hits its peak with the fact he always able to get the huge dunk (just ask Dwight Howard this year). Henderson is also considered a plus athlete in other aspects, which always points to plenty of room for growth. His athleticism combined with the fact he features a 6’10″ wingspan also allows for him to be an impact player as a defender, and on the floor Gerald shows skill along with the raw talent.
Henderson isn’t a player seen going for the highlight defensive play, so reading the box score doesn’t show his defensive impact – he doesn’t even average a whole steal or block per game. The style in which he performs on that end of the floor is just a microcosm of his entire basketball career . Gerald maximizes his efforts by using effective footwork and sticking to his own man. He almost never tries to go for the on-ball steal, and unlike some other players who get their steals through clogging passing lanes, Henderson only goes for the steal when it is feasibly in his reach.
In this video, you get to see how Henderson locks his man down. Stephen Curry is an elite scorer, who typically creates for himself. However, the footwork Gerald displays forces Curry into taking an awful shot. Henderson gets the block here, but he usually plays defense in this manner without getting any box score recognition.
The level in which Henderson has handled himself throughout his time in Charlotte is exemplary, and I find the most confusingly funny part of this is the fact they were considering dealing him for J.J. Hickson or a first round pick at the end of this year. The worst part? A team like the Pacers didn’t even bite on him. Not trying to say Henderson should be regarded as a top-tier NBA talent like, but he will end up being a better player than Miles Plumlee will likely ever be. Plus, unlike some rookies teams have taken a chance on, he already has proven himself as a continual hard worker in the league.
As for Henderson’s future this off-season? It currently feels like the Bobcats and Gerald Henderson will go separate ways. Personally, I think it is an awful idea for the organization just letting him go since he has easily seemed like their best player the last two seasons.
As for Henderson, it might be really cool to see him out of Charlotte. Seeing him play a role he isn’t the most comfortable in, while playing for such a consistently bad team has been disheartening. A contending team could very easily pick Henderson up for a decent price if other organizations are caught napping on him. He could easily become the type of athletic 3-and-D role player that contenders are always looking forward to fill, with an improved ability to get to the rim. Judging by how he has reacted to the lack of attention he has received thus far, he will likely be more than willing to man the position.