What does the Gerald Henderson signing mean to the Bobcats?

USA TODAY Sports

Restricted free-agent Gerald Henderson signed a three-year, $18-million contract Sunday that includes a player option in the third year. What does he mean to the Bobcats, and what do the Bobcats mean to him?

Late last week, rumors floated around suggesting Gerald Henderson and the Charlotte Bobcats were having difficulty agreeing to a deal, and as a result were exploring the possibility of a sign-and-trade. Just days later, Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Henderson and the Bobcats were finalizing a deal.

There was some uncertainty as to what would happen to Henderson this offseason. The Bobcats seemed interested but not committed to retaining him, the Al Jefferson signing meant there would be less money to throw at him, and while it's no secret he genuinely likes playing in Charlotte, most people felt that Henderson would try to move on anyway. Who wants to play on a frugal, losing team, anyway?

Well, Henderson does. According to reports, Henderson also had a three-year, $21-million contract on the table from the Bobcats. However, he decided to take roughly $1 million less per year in return for a player option. It's far too early to speculate on whether or not Henderson will pick up his option in a couple years, but you can't blame him for valuing the flexibility it affords him.

Take a look at some of the deals other shooting guards have signed in recent years:

Henderson's deal averages out to $6 million per year, and while I'm not suggesting that he's as good as any of these players (even if he is), it's nice to see a player as versatile as Henderson retained for less than his one-dimensional peers.

But what's most interesting is Henderson didn't sign an offer sheet with any other team. Reports suggest he only spoke with the Bobcats and was interested in doing what was right for both himself and the team. That might be why they discussed a possible sign-and-trade at one point.

On the other hand, it's possible that no teams reached out to Henderson. Many teams are well over the cap, and most of the ones that aren't have committed to tanking the 2013-2014 season for a shot at Andrew Wiggins. We don't know what happened, but my gut says Henderson wanted to stay from the beginning -- unless he was offered a ridiculous amount of money to play elsewhere.

And that's where his player option comes in. As much as Henderson loves playing in Charlotte, he's undoubtedly worth more than $6 million per year. But he's been part of this rebuild since it started, and I suspect Henderson wants to see the rebuild out before committing to a longer, more valuable deal. He's loyal, but he's not stupid.

The Bobcats have accelerated their rebuild a bit by signing Jefferson, who, despite what most national columnists will tell you, is not part of the Bobcats' future long-term. He's a stopgap, an investment, and most of all, a valuable asset. He's a means to an end and by no means an indication that the Bobcats have thrown in the towel.

Jefferson is still a very important piece moving forward and a lot of the Bobcats' success will be determined by how well he, Henderson and Walker play together. Steve Clifford's interviews suggest the Bobcats' offensive system will revolve around Jefferson's ability to draw double teams in the post.

This leaves Henderson with two main scoring options: cuts and spot-up opportunities. According to MySynergySports.com, isolations took up the majority (19.1 percent) of Henderson's offensive possessions last season while cuts and spot-up opportunities took up 7.1 percent and 13.9 percent, respectively. Isolations are rarely efficient, and Henderson's 0.77 Points Per Possession on isolation opportunities are no exception. He was, however, fairly efficient as a cutter and spot-up shooter, posting PPPs of 1.67 and 1.07, respectively.

By playing to his strengths, Henderson's efficiency should go up markedly. While he responded well to being a first and/or second option in previous years, he'll likely never make a living as a go-to player. He's a glue guy, and a damn good one. That should become more apparent with Jefferson and an improved Walker flanking him.

Henderson needs to continue to improve his 3-point shooting, though. He's become a considerably better shooter as years have passed, but he's still not where he needs to be. While 1.07 PPP on spot-up opportunities is great for a guy that doesn't make 3-pointers consistently, Henderson's overall efficiency would skyrocket if he's able to shoot around 35 percent from deep or better. He's going to see a lot of open looks on the perimeter this season, and knowing him, he's already hard at work improving his shot.

And that's the crazy thing. Henderson is only 25 years old. He's improved dramatically since Larry Brown's firing in 2010 and by all indications will continue to improve. He's still about three years from his prime, which, conveniently for him, is when he's able to negotiate a new contract as an unrestricted free agent.

Whether or not that new contract is with the Bobcats is not important at this point. What's important is that Henderson is back, the young core is intact, and the future looks brighter than ever.

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