First of all, I'm going to admit that I am probably the biggest Gerald Henderson fanboy out there.
He's done more for this team than any player currently on the roster, he's played hard through adversity, he's been on the only decent Charlotte Bobcats team in the history of the franchise, and he's a remarkable athlete who can get it done on both sides of the ball.
I knew that the 2011-12 season was an indication that Henderson had emerged from his shell and that he was heading for big things. Unfortunately, an injury sidelined him for much of the beginning of the 2012-13 season, and he never fully recovered until after the All-Star break.
But once he recovered, it was a spectacle.
It seemed like every night during the last half of the season, Henderson was absolutely unstoppable. He has good length and size for his position, and he is able to even be slotted in at small forward, making him a versatile player, and a veteran that the Bobcats absolutely must retain in his restricted free agency this season.
Even with the super-athletic and highly skilled Ben McLemore on tap in the draft, Henderson is the guy the Bobcats must keep as they continue to build a decent team.
With the incredible improvement of Kemba Walker during the season, Gerald Henderson was finally not the only scoring threat on the court, like he was for essentially all of 2011-12.
Better yet, his chemistry with Josh McRoberts both on and off the court showed, as the two Duke teammates gelled immediately once McRob put on a Bobcats uniform.
Henderson has a variety of tools that he uses to baffle defenders. He's excellent at creating his own plays, driving to the hoop, making acrobatic layups and he can posterize players at times.
His bread and butter is, and always has been, his mid-range jump shot. He is most comfortable shooting from about 16-18 feet out, and he makes those shots at a high percentage.
Up until the 2012-13 season, Henderson's biggest weaknesses offensively were three-point shooting and creating for others, but even both of those issues improved pretty dramatically this season. It was clear Henderson put a lot of work in both his passing and playmaking abilities during this offseason, and he wasn't lying when he said his top priority during the offseason had been to improve his three-point shot.
Though his 2.6 assists per game isn't going to rock anyone's world, it was all a matter of perspective. Henderson often made brilliant passes that led to baskets without being credited for the assist. He moved the ball very well.
His 3P percentage shot up from 23.4 the previous season to 33 percent in 2012-13. One offseason of hard work and Henderson added 10 percentage points to his three-pointer, and I think it's going to continue to rise.
Henderson has always been highly regarded as one of the better defenders on the wing in the conference, even if his basic statistics don't quite show it. Henderson is a fairly lockdown guy who manages to keep opposing shooting guards in check, and he's capable of guarding up to the small forward, as I mentioned earlier.
Henderson had 1.0 steal per game in 2012-13, and he blocked 0.5 shots per game. Again, the stats don't really do Hendo much justice in terms of what he actually did on the defensive end.
He has quick, accurate hands to disrupt ball handling and passing, his feet and lateral quickness are fantastic, and (when not being forced into zone defense like the majority of this past season) he sticks to his man like glue. Henderson will benefit from a coach, unlike Mike Dunlap, who utilizes man-defense more than zone.
One criticism that is occasionally made about Henderson defensively is the fact that he tends to try to do too much. A true team player, Henderson will pick up a man lost by one of his teammates, but as a result, he can get a bit off track and will occasionally wander out of his zone.
Charlotte had terrible perimeter defense this past season, but almost all of the blame should be pointed toward Mike Dunlap's absurd notion that his 2-3 zone defense wasn't broken. Henderson is a high-octane defender, and he'll continue to prove that with a better coaching scheme.
Should the Bobcats keep Henderson?
What about Ben McLemore?
I'm also a huge Ben McLemore fan. He's easily the most polished player in this draft, and he will eventually be an All-Star one day.
Mac and Hendo share some similarities—they're roughly the same size (Henderson having a little more length and muscle), they're both top-notch athletes, and they're both very good offensive producers.
However, despite McLemore's ability to score with consistency from three-point land (42 percent with Kansas in 2012-13), he is not exactly what anyone would call a "playmaker" yet. He doesn't do nearly as well as Henderson off the dribble, and Henderson's ball-handling skills are vastly superior to McLemore's.
The point is, while McLemore would be an absolutely fantastic addition to this team if Henderson wasn't around, the Bobcats should stick with Hendo. McLemore would be a rookie, and Henderson is already a fantastic leader with local ties to the city of Charlotte. He knows this team inside and out, and he's absolutely irreplaceable in terms of intangibles.
The bottom line
Henderson is probably going to get a much-deserved raise this summer. But he wants to return to Charlotte and help make this team respectable. The Charlotte Bobcats should make it a priority to keep Henderson this offseason, as long as a team doesn't make an absurd offer for the shooting guard.
Players respect him. He's proven to be a clutch player, an exciting player, and the rock of this team. With a new coaching staff coming in, and a lot of changes coming this team's way in the next two years, it would be a travesty if they let Hendo go.