It's the dawning of a new era in New Orleans basketball, and with so much attention paid to matters off the court this season, I believe it's time to evaluate how our franchise performed during its time on the court. As a result, I want to begin an evaluation of the front office, the roster and the coaching staff and see how they performed, what could happen going forward, and whether or not you approve of their job this season. Without further adieu, the next player we're going to look at is Xavier Henry.
Second season in the league (first with the Hornets) out of the University of Kansas (1 year, $2.3 Million left on contract; $3.2 Million Team Option for 2014)
45 Games, 0 Starts, 5.3 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 61.2 FT Pctg., 41.2 3PT FG Pctg., 39.5 FG Pctg., 9.2 PER, 91 Offensive Rating, 106 Defensive Rating
Best Game this Season: March 2nd, 2012 vs. Dallas Mavericks (19 Points, 4 Rebounds, 2 Assists, 2 Steals in 24 minutes during a 97-92 victory)
Xavier Henry is actually someone I was looking at the Hornets acquiring when he left Kansas for the 2010 NBA Draft. At the time, the Hornets held the 11th pick and I felt there was a strong possibility he could come in and stop the revolving door at the shooting guard position for New Orleans. The Hornets passed on him for Cole Aldrich and then Henry went to the Grizzlies. After an unbelievably long and embarrassing holdout, Henry eventually signed with Memphis. However, he never hit it off with the Grizzlies and he went to the Hornets for a 2013 2nd Round Draft Pick. Imagine my excitement when I noticed that someone I wanted the Hornets to acquire in the lottery was picked up by the team for the price of a 2nd rounder next year. Henry was young (he just turned 21 in March), he had a reputation as a shooter in college and the Hornets picked him up for cheap. His size (6-6, 220 lbs.) is also prototypical for a player at his position and it seemed as if he'd grow a lot for a bad team in New Orleans.
Henry, however, never really stuck with the rotation this year. He had moments of greatness, sure, but still has struggled with his 3 point shot (something he did so well in college) and has had big lapses on the court both offensively and defensively that wound up limiting his time on the court for Coach Monty Williams. With the injury to Eric Gordon and the sporadic play of Marco Belinelli (plus with injuries to Trevor Ariza over the year), you figured that Henry would crack the rotation and earn consistent minutes and it's just something he never did.
However, in his limited time on the court, there was one thing Henry did exceptionally well and that's get to the foul line. He averaged two trips to the foul line a game in only about 16 minutes a game; which is pretty good. The problem with Henry was converting when he got to the foul line. Henry only shot 61.2% from the charity stripe this year (and only 63.5% last year) and, therefore, his talent for getting to the line is negated by his inability to make it count when he gets there. If Monty and company could lock Henry in a gym and get him to improve his free throw percentage to about 75% next season, that's a huge step up and that's someone who can crack the rotation as a pretty solid player going into next year.
But there are still more questions than answers with Henry. He'll get an extra look this off season but with Gordon coming back, the team might not try to keep both him and Belinelli. Henry had an opportunity to distance himself from that and failed to do so. As a result, you have to wonder what improvements he'll make coming into next season. Unfortunately, the things Henry did well in college (78.3% free throw shooting, 41.8% 3pt FG shooting) haven't translated yet. He's still young and he's still got room to improve, though. I'm amazed at how raw he has, but he's still a project and he's still got time to improve.