Gerald Henderson Deserves More Credit For His Shooting Ability

During tonight’s Southern Conference championship game, broadcasters Brad Nessler and Jimmy Dykes discussed the selections for the All-ACC First Team. Dykes turned his attention to its three backcourt players – Miami’s Jack McClinton, Florida State’s Toney Douglas, and Duke’s Gerald Henderson. In an honest attempt to enlighten the viewer, Dykes said the following:

“McClinton is going to be the best pro of the three, and Douglas… boy, can he stroke it. But I don’t think Henderson is going to come out early. He needs to stick around and work on his left hand and especially his shooting.”

As happens with some frequency, my internal “that sounds like it might not be right” alarm went off. I was skeptical of the implied gap between Henderson’s shooting ability and that of McClinton and Douglas. So, naturally, I looked it up.

  • Henderson: 47.9% FG, 53.4 eFG%, 77.1% FT, 54% 2FG, 34.3% 3FG
  • Douglas: 42.8% FG, 50.7% eFG%, 81.1% FT, 47.8% 2FG, 37.4% 3FG
  • McClinton: 45.4% FG, 58.7% eFG%, 88.5% FT, 46.1% 2FG, 46.4% 3FG

Dykes’ assessment isn’t wrong, but it’s not right either. Henderson clearly doesn’t shoot as well from three-point range as the others, but he takes those shots less frequently. Douglas and McClinton have each taken 181 long-distance shots this season, while Henderson has taken 93. One possible explanation for this is that he’s so darn good at making two-pointers, particularly for a wing player, that he doesn’t really see the need. To be fair, Henderson also lags behind the others in free-throw percentage. All things considered, they should probably be ordered as McClinton, Henderson, and Douglas in descending order of shooting ability.

Ultimately, the idea that Henderson’s shooting “especially” needs improvement is misguided. His shooting ability is comparable to the others’, mostly on the shoulders of his excellent two-point conversion rate. Also misguided is the subtle implication – pertaining to all three players – that their shooting ability will make or break their potential NBA careers. While it’s certainly very important, it’s not everything. Each player, not just Henderson, will have to make adjustments to improve his chances of success. Douglas will have to cope with the common problem of being a volume scorer in a point guard’s body. McClinton must learn to diversify his offense, particularly given his difficulties getting to the line. Henderson must translate his athleticism into a higher rebounding rate and improved defense. The one thing that all three do have in common is their shooting ability, making Dykes’ distinction not all that accurate.

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