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December 19, 2008

The Richard Hendrix Experience

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 6:17 pm

Strictly speaking, this post isn’t about college basketball. Bear with me.

Yesterday the Golden State Warriors announced that they’ve waived rookie Richard Hendrix. He is, for the moment, out of the NBA, having left Alabama last year after his junior season.

You know me to be a rather college-focused dude, but this bit of NBA news got my attention. Hendrix had a superb and strangely underappreciated college career in Tuscaloosa. He’s a lousy free throw shooter and he can’t make threes, but in literally any other area of basketball endeavor that you would care to name, the 6-8 Hendrix was excellent. Scoring, turnover-minimization, offensive rebounding, shot-blocking, defensive rebounding–everything. That may have been his problem: there was no one thing you could point to and say: “There! That’s Hendrix!” But, speaking literally, no big man in the one-and-done era has excelled as markedly in as many areas at the collegiate level as did Richard Hendrix.

Now he’s on the street. Whenever something happens in the NBA that I don’t understand, I turn to one of the fine pro experts that we have in-house here at Basketball Prospectus. Here’s what Kevin Pelton patiently explained to me….

That Hendrix would not stick with the Warriors should not come as a shock. Don Nelson is somewhat reticent about playing youngsters, though he’s had little choice this year. Still, when he has turned to the youth movement it’s been for lottery picks Brandan Wright and Anthony Randolph (as well as Marco Belinelli on the perimeter). Ultimately, Nelson apparently favored Rob Kurz‘s ability to stretch the floor over Hendrix’s game, which did not fit in ideally with Golden State’s run-and-shoot philosophy.

Hendrix had been in the D-League, putting up his usual solid numbers. He was one of seven D-Leaguers averaging a double-double and is adding a block and a steal per game as well, all while shooting a solid 51.6 percent from the field.

With 10-day contracts becoming available to teams starting January 5, someone ought to give Hendrix a look. He might make sense in Charlotte, where even with the addition of Boris Diaw the Bobcats are still looking for Larry Brown-friendly players in the frontcourt. Signing Juwan Howard is a sign of desperation, especially for a young team. Atlanta might be another interesting fit in the southeast, as Hendrix has been more productive than Othello Hunter over the course of his career.

Understood. Considerations of style and roster space came into play, as of course they must. Hey, I can believe Hendrix isn’t a good fit with Golden State right now. But what I would like to see is whether he can’t make a go of it somewhere in the league. 

Five months ago I thought Hendrix’s case was sufficiently interesting that I dragged him kicking and screaming, topically speaking of course, into an essay on one-and-done–this despite the fact that the young man in question actually played three seasons for the Crimson Tide before being drafted in the second round by the Warriors. He was universally declared to be too short and too old to ever be a lottery pick. Yet all he did in college was play consistently excellent basketball against the likes of Al Horford, Marreese Speights, and, most ironically, current Warrior Anthony Randolph. I find that dichotomy interesting and I’m going to continue to watch it play out.

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