The Charlotte Bobcats have a bit of decision-making to do, and it's not the bad kind.
It's not the type of decision they were making last year—whether to start a bad player instead of a worse player—but instead, it's a decision on who they think is actually the better player between two pretty good choices.
Many will look at the starting point guard battle between Ramon Sessions and Kemba Walker as the more interesting duel, but I think shooting guard is where the bacon is going to be made this season, and head coach Mike Dunlap has a big decision to make between starting Gerald Henderson and Ben Gordon.
Gerald Henderson was Charlotte's best player last year. He was the MVP on the worst team in NBA history, which might not sound like a big deal, but given Henderson's relative anonymity/mediocrity in his first two years, it was a pleasant surprise. He averaged 15.1 PPG, 2.3 APG, and 4.1 RPG in 33.3 MPG. He shot at a relatively efficient clip, going .459 from the field.
Henderson is a slashing/mid-range shooting guard, someone who thrives on driving to the rim and taking short to mid-range jumpers. He's an adequate rebounder, a physical player and can be a facilitator if the play is right. His biggest knock is that he has no perimeter game at all, shooting .234 from beyond the arch last season.
Ben Gordon, on the other hand, is strictly a sharpshooter. He was acquired in a deal that sent SF Corey Maggette to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Gordon and a future first round pick, a trade most seem to believe the Bobcats won.
Gordon averaged 12.5 PPG, 2.4 APG, and 2.3 RPG in 26.9 MPG. Gordon's bread and butter is his three-pointer, with which he shot .429 last season. Unfortunately, Gordon doesn't do much else. He's not as good of a defender as Henderson, and he lacks dimension to his game, which is the main reason he was the first man off the bench in Detroit.
There are a lot of angles to look at this. Henderson, I think we can all agree, is the more well-rounded player, and while he lacks a three-point shot, he can do pretty much everything else fairly well. I think we would also agree that Gordon is a three-point specialist and isn't proficient in much of anything else.
Common sense would be to have Henderson start and Gordon come off the bench as a sixth-man type of player, right?
Well, maybe not. The problem with Henderson's style of play is that it's very similar to another new Bobcat named Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. It remains to be seen whether their similar style of play will enhance each other, or if MKG will need someone to open up the court a little more like Gordon, who will force a perimeter defender whenever he's on the court.
Further, Gordon is the more proven scorer. This is a guy who is only three years removed from being a superstar in Chicago, scoring over 20 points per game, and carrying the Bulls while Derrick Rose was in his younger years.
If Gordon is given the minutes and the right play style (in other words, plenty of open looks from a spread out court), there's no reason he couldn't be that type of scorer for the Bobcats. The Bulls were still a very young team when Gordon shouldered them, and maybe he could do that for the Bobcats as well.
Ultimately, it's going to be up to Mike Dunlap and who he thinks is going to better maximize his brand new, up-tempo style of offense. In training camp, it should become clear whether Henderson's similar play-style to MKG or Gordon's sharpshooting abilities should start at the two-spot.
Gerald Henderson or Ben Gordon?
Going with my gut, I say start Henderson with Gordon coming off the bench much in the same capacity that he did in Detroit. Henderson is the better defender, the more versatile scorer and the younger of the two, and it would be difficult to bench this squad's best player from the previous season.
The progress Henderson made between the two previous seasons and over the course of last season is really quite impressive, and it stands to reason that he's only going to get better with more talent around him.
With Ben Gordon pushing him to start, Henderson is going to maximize his potential and become the player the Bobcats thought they were getting when they drafted him 12th overall in the 2009 draft. Perhaps even a 20+ PPG type of player.
It's going to be exciting to see what happens with Charlotte's backcourt for this season. There is some strong depth, and Dunlap must make a decision to go with veteran presence or young talent at both guard positions. It will be interesting to see where this team decides to go.