Juan Hernangomez is a forward for Movistar Estudiantes of the Spanish ACB. He declared for the NBA Draft in the middle of April and is projected by most draft analysts to be a late first round pick, come next month. Basketball is in his blood; his father Guillermo and sister Andrea both have played for Estudiantes and his brother Willy, who currently plays for Real Madrid, was drafted in the second round of last year’s draft by the New York Knicks.
This season for Estudiantes, Hernangomez has appeared in 31 games for the club and started in 20, while logging 23.2 minutes per game – a drastic improvement from last season, when he started only three games and logged just 10 minutes per afternoon. According to RealGM, he’s averaging 1.41 points per shot on 19 percent usage (while shooting 46 percent from the field, 36 percent from the three-point line and 73 percent from the free throw line) and rebounding 15 percent of all misses when he’s been on the floor (including 22 percent of opponents’ misses) – a decent statistical profile when you consider this is his age-20 season.
Hernangomez isn’t a particularly great athlete by NBA standards, but has a physical profile that most NBA teams will probably fall in love with in this specific Era. He’s six-foot-nine, 220 pounds and sports a seven-foot wingspan to go along with adequate quickness at the forward position. He’s not explosive or bouncy but, as you can see in the following GIF, he can finish above the rim with authority.
Hernangomez’s quickness will allow whatever NBA team that selects him to play him in the perimeter some on both ends of the floor. He isn’t a guy that will be able to switch onto elite guards or wings defensively at the NBA level or blow by elite wing defenders offensively either. But he has enough quickness to be an asset as an outside guy, especially as the bigger wing who masks as a stretch-four on smaller lineups. You’ll see how Hernangomez utilizes his quickness on both ends of the floor in the GIF’s below, where he blows by Trey Thompkins off the dribble and then does a good job of fighting over a screen, displaying the lateral quickness to stay in front of his man on the other end.
Probably the skill that will translate in the NBA right away for Hernangomez is his catch-and-shoot ability. He isn’t a guy who does much to create his own shot and doesn’t really shoot much off the dribble. He’ll be utilized by NBA teams as a stretch-four spotting on the weak-side and can potentially develop into a threat out of the pick-and-pop, providing spacing to teams who don’t have much shooting to begin with. Hernangomez doesn’t have much elevation on his shot but showcases very fluid shooting mechanics, doing a good job of keeping his body square and releasing the ball quickly.
Besides his catch-and-shoot ability, Hernangomez’s ability to pass out of the short roll and out of the low post could be a skill that translates to the NBA right away. The timing and touch on his passes are very good, sporting a natural feel for the game. The bounce pass is probably Hernangomez’s best weapon in his passing arsenal, something he utilizes quite frequently. While he doesn’t provide a ton of polish or ability as a scorer with his back to the basket, his passing ability will be valued by NBA teams in a ever changing league where big men are being utilized more and more as ball movers and even passers off dribble penetration.
Hernangomez is not overly-physical and his lack of strength gets exposed quite often but he still has a scrappiness about him to be an productive rebounder, especially on the defensive glass. He doesn’t contribute much on the offensive glass, primarily due to the fact he plays mainly along the perimeter on that end of the floor. Hernangomez has a good motor and strong hands, which usually makes up for his lack of power and is fundamentally sound as a rebounder. I love how he doesn’t wait for the shot to come off the rim like most rebounders do, rather opting to go up and get the ball at it’s highest point.
Hernangomez’s effort on the defensive end isn’t so much a problem, as his overall lack of awareness is. Like most young players, he often either helps when he doesn’t need to or just gets caught watching the ball, instead of his man. This will probably lead to Hernangomez’s role with his new NBA team to be fairly limited, given how he’s initially projected as a liability on defense. Estudiantes allowed 110 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor.
There wasn’t one game I watched of Estudiantes’s where I didn’t see a defensive lapse happen caused by Hernangomez. You’ll see him get completely lost and caught in what I like to call no man’s land defensively, whether it be on pick-and-rolls, again overhelping or just completely losing his man because his sole focus is on the ball. You’ll see in the last GIF Hernangomez’s teammate calls for a switch and he just doesn’t react at all, leaving Jonas Maciulus wide open in the corner.
Hernangomez’s lack of strength is going to be another issue for him against NBA players. As I mentioned earlier, Hernangomez is a forward who plays primarily along the perimeter, so his lack of strength is not often exposed. However, when you see Hernangomez try to defend the post, it’s usually a nightmare for him because he doesn’t have the upper body strength or base to hold position. You’ll see Hernangomez defending in the post below, doing a good job of staying straight up but getting bumped one time and pushed underneath the rim.
Hernangomez could develop into a starting caliber forward (when you consider guys like Luis Scola, Ersan Ilyasova, Lavoy Allen, Jordan Hill and Alonzo Gee started a combined 209 games this season). He is a scrappy stretch-four who will provide spacing, defensive rebounding and playmaking from that position. He already has enough quickness and shooting ability to be a offensive mistmatch against most power forwards, that with improved ball handling ability, Hernangomez could exentuate his value offensively.
Defense is the real question for him; he plays with enough scrappiness and effort to develop into a good defender, but will the awareness follow? Adding 10-20 pounds will surely take away some of his quickness, but it would allow Hernangomez to actually be a viable post defender and hold his ground on the low block. This would make him less of a defensive liability and avoid being typecast as a tweener who just hurts you so much that he is not worth the payoff on offense, while helping him also improve as an offensive rebounder, I believe.
The risk associated with Hernangomez is that if he doesn’t get stronger, he’ll be forced to play as a pure wing, which I think will lead to him get eaten alive. Hernangomez has adequate quickness, but not enough to stay in front of elite or even the average starting caliber NBA wing on a conistent basis. He also doesn’t have the handling or shot creation skills, not to mention he doesn’t really shoot off the dribble either.
This would put Hernangomez in a position to be the bad sort of tweener at the forward position – the one who can’t defend wings or bigs – which hasn’t faired well for draft prospects like Derek Williams and Michael Beasley, from year’s past. Hernangomez would then be limited to just a standstill weak-side shooter, who can secure defensive rebounds here and there. He would be totally out of position as a pure wing and would probably end up towards the end of the bench, for a majority of his NBA career.
-Hernangomez really could go anywehere from 19-30 in this draft, more than likely finding himself being selected in the latter part of the first round – especially considering it’s unclear when his contract is up or if he is willing to pay his buyout out of his own pocket. I think the Nuggets, which have three selections in this year’s first round, would be an ideal fit for the Spanish forward. Denver desperately needs shooting, ranking 20th in three-pointers made and 26th in three-point percentage this season. Spacing is clearly an issue for them. Hernangomez would provide them with another big, alongisde Nikola Jokic, Joffrey Lauvergne and Darrell Arthur, who can stretch the floor and potentially develop into the sort of shooter who can play pick-and-pop with Emmanuel Mudiay. This would help open up the lane for Mudiay, something teams clogged up last year against Denver. Also the Nuggets have a ton of international influence in their front office and locker room, currently having six international players on their roster. This could make the transition from Spain to America much easier for Hernangomez and playing under a defensive savant in Michael Malone could do wonders for his lack of defensive awareness.
-Outside of Myles Turner, the Pacers don’t have many big men who can stretch the floor or who pass out of the interior. Hernangomez’s shooting could help their spacing issues and give Paul George and Monta Ellis some more room to work with. His defensive deficiencies, primarily in the post, could also be alleviated playing next to shot blockers like Turner and Ian Mahinmi.
-Like Indiana and Denver, Toronto clearly has some spacing issues and really no youth at the four spot. Luis Scola is 36, while both Patrick Patterson and Jason Thompson are closing in on 30 and aren’t ever going to be starters on a good team in this league. Playing in a city like Toronto and for a GM like Masai Ujiri, also like in Denver, should make the transition easier for Hernangomez. “Juancho” would add shooting, some defensive rebounding and much needed youth, to a team that really has no prospect at the power forward position.
-With 30-year-old Mirza Teletovic sitting as their current starting power forward and Jon Leuer as their back-up, Phoenix is in need of a prospect at that position. Hernangomez’s shooting ability would fit right in with a team that ranked top five in both three-pointers made and three-point percentage this season. He wouldn’t be thrown into the fire right away either, playing behind a veteran like Teletovic and even could play some three for Phoenix at times, given they are pretty shallow at that spot as well. Hernangomez would have a great teacher in defensive stalworth Tyson Chandler, who could also mask some of his defensive issues early. Phoenix would add to their youth movement by bringing in Hernangomez, who alongside whoever they take with what looks to be a surefire Top 3-5 selection in this year’s draft, Devin Booker and Alex Len would make up a solid core to start building upon.
Editor’s Note: Evan Wheeler is a regular contributor to ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at Denver Sidekicks, where he is also a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @EvanWheelz