No Risk, All Reward: Breaking Down the Xavier Henry Trade

Published: January 6, 2012

Dell Demps lives up to his “Dealer” nickname yet again. This time the Hornets acquire guard Xavier Henry in a three team trade with the Memphis Grizzlies and Philadelphia 76ers. On the surface, this trade looks innocent enough—a second round pick for a promising but unproven young player—but let’s take a deeper look and see how this not only affects the Hornets but their division rival as well.

This was a move made out of necessity by the Hornets who are just not getting it done from 3-point range so far this season. The Hornets rank last in the league, shooting a miserable 19.5% this season. The team’s two best 3-point shooters, Marco Belinelli and Eric Gordon, are only shooting 28.6% and 8.3% respectively. That is not going to light up the scoreboard. With little depth behind Gordon and Belinelli, as well as Henry’s ability to play the 3, Demps had to make a move.

In Henry, the Hornets are getting a raw, former lottery pick (Memphis drafted him 12th overall in 2010). His pro-career isn’t anything impressive so far, averaging only 4.3 points in just about 14 minutes per game. His 11.8% 3-point percentage also suggests he shoots blindfolded. I saw Hugo nail free-throws blindfolded Wednesday so I’m assuming you can shoot well without looking. Given he’s has 17 three-point attempts to his name, it’s too small of a sample size to accurately judge him.

Prior to Memphis taking him last year, his DraftExpress scouting evaluation read as follows, “A highly capable spot up shooter who has a chiseled physique and brings solid defensive intensity, he’s tailored to be a useful player right away for some teams and could blossom into a very effective offensive wing if he continues to develop.” Couple his potential with the fact that he is only 20 and you can see why Dealer Dell pulled the trigger on this deal.

Even if Henry doesn’t pan out, the Hornets gave up virtually nothing to acquire him. Second round picks have a very high chance of failure. The Hornets sold their second rounder last year because there was just no one they wanted. Check out this tweet from Draft Express. The pick will most likely end up being the equivalent of a 10-day contract signing.The Hornets basically gave up last year’s Sasha Pavlovic for a former lottery pick.

If Henry doesn’t pan out with the Hornets, no big deal since he’s still on his rookie contract. The Hornets have team options on Henry for the next two seasons at 2.3 and 3.2 million. If it doesn’t work out, the Hornets don’t pick up the option and his (low) salary comes off the books.

That’s like if someone gives you a free beer then you decide it tastes terrible and pour it out. The other person wasted a beer but you didn’t really lose anything. These are the type of long-term moves small-market teams need to make in order to make a deep playoff run. Without Chris Paul’s shadow hanging over the organization, the Hornets are able to take these gambles. I applaud your long-term thinking, Dell Demps.

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Let’s resume…

The move could also start the countdown to the end of Belinelli’s career as a Hornet. He has struggled to shoot the ball this season and it looks like Monty Williams is starting to lose faith in the Italian. Against the 76ers Belinelli only played 21 minutes, down from his 30+ in the previous five games. Given that he is on an expiring deal, don’t be surprised if Demps deals him to a playoff team willing to give up young assets to make a run at a title (I’m looking at you Chicago).

Other than giving up Henry, this move also has big implications for the division rival Grizzlies. The Grizz are clearly in a win-now state of mind. Teams normally don’t give up on a 20 year only lottery pick after just one season but, with his injuries and OJ Mayo ahead of him on the depth chart, Henry became expendable once Zach Randolph went down injured for 6-8 weeks.

Chip Crain, from the Grizzlies blog 3 Shades of Blue, agrees and says the move could “be born more from desperation than intelligence and not just because the Grizzlies have lost Zach Randolph for the next 6-8 weeks of the season. This could be desperation born from pressure from the owner to win now…”

With no guarantee that OJ Mayo will remain with the team long term, the Grizzlies could have a gaping hole in the backcourt which the Hornets and Eric Gordon could take advantage of for years to come. If Henry reaches all of his potential, Demps will not only have added a solid player to the Hornets, but also weakened a division rival. All for the price of a future second round pick.


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