The Charlotte Bobcats will be better off if Gerald Henderson signs a short-term deal to remain with the team. The Bobcats have a troubled history of buyer’s remorse, likely a reason they only guaranteed two seasons on Al Jefferson’s new contract, rather than the maximum four.
In 2007, Matt Carroll signed a six-year, $27 million deal—only to be shipped to Dallas that season for five memorable seasons of Gana Diop.
The Bobcats re-signed Emeka Okafor to a six-year, $72 million contract in 2008. The following offseason, Okafor was traded to New Orleans for an injury-plagued Tyson Chandler.
Tyrus Thomas signed a five-year, $40 million contract in 2010 that became such a burden the Bobcats had to waive him this summer with the league’s amnesty provision.
Gerald Wallace’s $57 million extension in 2007 is the only exception to the Bobcats misery. Wallace continued to be the team’s best asset and the Bobcats were only forced to deal him to jumpstart their current rebuilding project.
Henderson is looking to get paid. Talks between him and the Bobcats reached an impasse last week, following news that Henderson is seeking up to $8.5 million annually. Henderson turns 26 in December and is the longest tenured Bobcat on the roster. He’s been a 15-point scorer the past few seasons and an underrated perimeter defender. Henderson’s durability and spotty three-point percentages are likely concerns, but he’s improved each season and remains a leader in the Bobcats young locker room.
Given their perimeter depth the Bobcats are logically reluctant to empty the bank. It’s feasible second-year wing Jeffery Taylor could be more affordable than Henderson going forward, and just as productive. Plus, the Bobcats have already spent north of $16 million this offseason to sign Jefferson, Josh McRoberts and first round pick Cody Zeller.
The Bobcats have explored sign-and-trade scenarios, but no teams are interested in prying Henderson away from Charlotte. Rumors circulated last week of the Bobcats interest in Monta Ellis, but he’s joined the Dallas Mavericks on a three-year deal.
With no quality alternatives remaining, a return to Charlotte is becoming more probable for Henderson. He could sign his $4.5 million qualifying offer and become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Raymond Felton signed his qualifying offer with the Bobcats in 2009, and left the following offseason to sign a two-year, $14 million contract with the New York Knicks. A year from now, Henderson could be in a better position for a larger deal.
That same offseason, the Bobcats will shred over $18 million off team salary with the expiring contracts of Ramon Sessions and Ben Gordon. Henderson would bump that figure to over $22 million if he signs his qualifying offer. The Bobcats would have enough cap room to find a suitable replacement for Henderson, or acquire a guard through the draft. They would also maintain the right to sign-and-trade Henderson.
While Henderson’s demands aren’t too outrageous, the Bobcats can’t afford to have a big contract backfire on them right now. If free agency is any clue, Henderson doesn’t seem to have great value either. With suitors low, the Bobcats hold much of the leverage in negotiations. Henderson will either have to bring his price down or test free agency next summer. The longer his current negotiations go, the less likely the Bobcats should be to give Henderson a long-term extension.