Gerald Henderson, Charlotte Bobcats
Henderson is in his second season, but spent most of his rookie year toiling away on the Charlotte bench. A middling Bobcats team struggling to secure a low playoff seed didn’t have room for a rookie guard in the regular rotation, especially with veteran options readily available. That kind of decision-making is par for the course with Larry Brown teams; Brown has found success with almost every team he’s coached, but nearly all of his coaching stops have also been marked by a disregard for young, developing talent. Such was the case with Henderson, and the guard’s inability to secure regular playing time extended into Brown’s tenure this season.
However, two developments have allowed Henderson to shine. The first was Brown’s exit because the Bobcats’ current head coach, Paul Silas, is much more willing to invest in the future of his roster. The other was the trading of Gerald Wallace. Though Wallace’s departure wouldn’t seem to be a boon for any of the Bobcats, it did open up opportunities for Henderson to try his hand as a defensive stopper. That was all Henderson needed, and while his emergence has been more a matter of role alteration and playing time adjustment than improvement, he still warrants a place among the finest defensive up-and-comers.
Henderson is a fantastic on-ball defender. He’s aggressive without getting himself in foul trouble, and uses his natural athleticism well. Henderson has been a thorn in the side of some of the top wing players, and he’s well on his way to becoming an elite lock-down defender.
Henderson still gets lost a bit too easily without having a point of reference directly in front of him. He tends to get separated from his man when defending a dedicated cutter or slasher, and in that way he’s a bit like Kobe Bryant. When tasked with defending an opposing ball-handler, Henderson can do a lot of damage by thwarting penetration, stopping scoring opportunities, and limiting passes. Yet if forced to guard a player who is more active in cutting off the ball, his effectiveness is mitigated.
Good to see hendo is getting some recognition for his great defensive skills