Portland Trail Blazers Roster Breakdown: Gerald Henderson
Tuesday, October 20, 2015
In a 15-part series, Oregon Sports News’ Bryant Knox and Jared Wright will be breaking down each player on the Trail Blazers roster. The series will conclude with an OSN Roundtable in October covering the state of the franchise entering the 2015-16 campaign.
In this edition of the roster breakdown, we take a look at a player who took a nap on June 24. Why is this significant? When he drifted off to dreamland, he was a member of the Charlotte Hornets. But by the time he opened his eyes and returned to reality, he was the newest shooting guard for the Portland Trail Blazers.
Where He’s Been/How He Got Here
Gerald Henderson was drafted into the NBA by Charlotte before the 2009-10 season. He was a lottery pick following his junior campaign at Duke, and while his rookie showing was underwhelming, he wasn’t far away from becoming a staple in the franchise’s starting lineup.
Having spent the past six seasons with the Hornets, Henderson leaves the squad as the team’s longest-tenured player. Ironically, he’s coming to Portland for one of its longest-tenured players, Nicolas Batum.
Despite Henderson’s ability to play solid, consistent basketball, the first thought from Rip City had virtually nothing to do with the 2-guard. In fact, it also had very little to do with the other piece that came Portland’s way, sophomore-to-be Noah Vonleh.
Portland fans everywhere immediately reacted to Nicolas Batum’s departure. Some were thrilled that the team’s most inconsistent player was now another franchise’s frustration. Others were disappointed that the Blazers had seemingly sold low following a down year for the swingman.
Regardless of where you found yourself on that debate, we now know what most of us suspected: That move was a sign of much bigger change to come.
With Henderson and Vonleh on board, Portland had gotten deeper in its attempt to surround LaMarcus Aldridge with enough talent to convince him to re-sign. However, it had also begun to prepare for the future—a future that looks drastically different without the lineup that won 105 games over the past two seasons.
Mutually Beneficial Pairing
From the Blazers’ perspective, having Henderson on board makes sense for myriad reasons. For starters, this group apparently had no interest in bringing back its incumbent starting 2-guard this summer. General manager Neil Olshey never made an offer to the recovering Wesley Matthews, making Henderson a potential replacement before free agency had even begun.
There’s also the fact that defense is likely going to be a concern. The backcourt tandem of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum isn’t going to scare any of today’s ultra-athletic playmakers, but having Henderson on board should help take the pressure off the two younger guards.
And don’t forget about leadership. Portland has become an extremely young group, and with Henderson, 27, entering his seventh season, he’ll provide a veteran presence on the perimeter that the team would have lacked otherwise.
As for Henderson, the former Blue Devil recognizes that Portland gives him a strong opportunity to succeed. According to Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer, Henderson said of being traded, “It was not so much about being traded as where I was going. This is a contract year. I wanted to be at a place with opportunity, a good organization and potentially a chance to win. I got all those things in Portland.”
Henderson’s correct. Literally everybody is going to have a chance on this year’s Rip City squad to prove their own value. Henderson is never going to be an All-Star, but he has a chance to show production and intangibles on a roster that can be considered a hodgepodge of unproven talent.
If he performs well, the Blazers will be more than happy to bring him back on board next summer as the team continues to establish its new core. And if he performs really well, there will be squads out there willing to overpay with the cap set to spike in 2016.
What To Expect
The Trail Blazers are expected to run a fast-paced system this year, and if the preseason is any indication, they’re going to look to spread the floor as well. That’s good news for Henderson, as his corner threes appear to be where his true strength lies when he’s not attacking the rim (something he’s quite good at).
From a management perspective, there’s one other thing to keep in mind: His expiring contract makes him extremely valuable at the trade deadline.
Although expiring contracts are no longer the holy grail they once were thanks to the upcoming cap spike, money is money, and all owners with rebuilding rosters want to clear space to continue adding for the future.
While it’s certainly possible Henderson stays on the roster for the entirety of the season, it’s almost guaranteed that we begin to hear his name once the rumor mill starts churning. This is going to be a season of trial, error and evaluation for everyone on the roster, and Henderson is no exception—especially with a summer of negotiation just nine months away.
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