Earlier in the year, I bought into Jeffery Taylor being in the starting lineup for the Charlotte Bobcats. Gerald Henderson was out with an injury, after all, and the rookie Taylor gave Charlotte some nice size and length on the wing.
Over a week into January, now, however, I’m not so sure.
It’s not that Taylor is trash, and it’s not that Henderson can’t be effective off the bench. It’s just that it doesn’t make any damn sense.
The Bobcats are not a good team. Take a look at that dreadful 18-game losing streak we all endured, and you know all you need to know. But you’d think that a bad team would at least like to put it’s best players in positions to succeed.
Last year, Henderson was easily one of Charlotte’s best players, if not the best player (arguably). He was primed for a jump in numbers again this year, but an injury derailed him after just two games. Upon his return, Henderson was scoring the ball like he was never out, and was a consistent part of the rotation immediately. The Bobcats were losing at a record pace, but you couldn’t really fault Henderson for that.
His solid play got him back into the starting lineup, where he deserved to be, and his solid play continued. He had a few rough games where his percentages weren’t where you’d like him to be, but overall since his return he had displayed a smoother outside touch, and was showing that his overall game was, as it was last year, evolving.
Then, out of nowhere, he’s back out of the starting lineup, and coming off the bench.
And it wasn’t like Henderson took a nose dive and this demotion was deserved. In his last three games prior to being sent to the bench, he put up 17, 16, and 19 points. He even shot over 50% and grabbed at least two rebounds and handed out at least two assists in each of those games. That, my friends, is what a consistent starter looks like.
Not a guy that deserves to be cast out the the bench and have his minutes dramatically cut.
And that’s the worst part of it. Not only was Henderson inexplicably benched, but his minutes dropped from well over 30 per game in a recent stretch, to about 22.5 per game.
With the reduced time, a likely confused Henderson put up just six points in his first game of reserve duty, and then dropped in 14 points against the Jazz on January ninth.
So, why the move to the bench? Perhaps head coach Mike Dunlap has paid attention to Henderson’s effectiveness when he’s not starting. For whatever reason, Henderson hits over 48% of his shots from the floor when he’s a reserve, compared to just over 42% when he’s starting.
Truth be told, he’s a pretty solid player with some upside either way you shake it, but in looks from both angles this year, it actually does appear that Henderson might be a better player when he’s the spark, rather than the offensive focus.
I’m willing to buy that logic if it helps the Bobcats win, but I won’t be so willing if Henderson’s minutes are so significantly reduced for an extended period of time.
He’s a young talent that seems to be getting better in his fourth seasons, and it’d be a shame for him to be unable to fully show his progress. Then again, perhaps Charlotte is trying to use him and save him at the same time, only to ship him off in a trade at a later date.
Regardless, I doubt Henderson moving to the bench is going to be what turns the Bobcats into a playoff contender. If anything, allowing him to grow as a starter would be the safer bet.
Ultimately, I understand the move, but I don’t necessarily agree with it. I’d keep Henderson in the starting lineup and send the rookie Taylor to the bench. The Bobcats are built on young talent that needs to play together if it’s going to get any better, and cutting Henderson’s minutes isn’t going to make that process go any faster.
What do you think? Should Henderson be coming off the bench? And if so, do you agree that Taylor should be starting in his place?