San Antonio Spurs Draft Prospect: Juan Hernangomez
By Ian Smith
The San Antonio Spurs have the possible departure of Tim Duncan looming over them. Power forward LaMarcus Aldridge is capable of playing center in Duncan’s place, and his versatility allows the Spurs to be as open as possible in drafting a new front court player. The Spurs have been known to acquire impact players even at a stage in the draft where most teams can only hope for an eventual rotation guy. The Spurs have the 29th pick in the draft, and an intriguing player they should consider selecting if available is Juan Hernangomez.
Hernangomez is a 20 year old player from Spain. He’s listed at 6’9’’ and 230 LBS. He’s capable of playing either forward position, which is huge for a guy looking to immerse himself in a lineup anyway he can.
He currently plays for a team called CB Estudiantes, which is apart of Liga ACB. Hernangomez has been able to hone his skills in the top league that Spain has to offer.
Hernangomez comes from a basketball family. His dad Guillermo played for CB Estudiantes in the 1980s. His brother Wily was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers with the 35th overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft, and his draft rights were later traded to the New York Knicks. His sister Andre is also a basketball player in Spain.
Hernangomez has remarkably long arms for a player his size. His wingspan is measured at 7’2’’. He’s a great athlete, although he’s not the rim protector that his wingspan might indicate he could be.
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As a shooter he’s decent, shooting 35.8% from 3-point range last season. His speed is what sets him apart. He flies down the court in transition, which would be a unique weapon to have on a Spurs team known for its methodical pace.
Hernangomez doesn’t have a back-to-the basket game, but instead scores in a half court setting by slashing to the hoop and finishing strong at the rim. He’s able to use his athleticism to draw a lot of fouls.
His leaping ability, long arms, and quickness allow him to rebound effectively. He’s always hustling on both ends of the court, at the very least providing energy to his team.
His defense is a little more worrisome than his offense. While his malleable status as a small forward/power forward helps him on offense, he appears to be overmatched guarding each position on defense.
His long arms certainly help him, but he isn’t as quick on his feet as a perimeter defender. He too often gets bullied in the post guarding power forwards, and he simply isn’t strong enough to contain bruising interior players.
He gets by mostly on tenacious vivacity on defense, without much awareness of its nuance. He utilizes his long arms to go for steals, yet doesn’t have the foresight to anticipate how his gambles force his teammates to cover for his mistakes.
The energy is a great thing, but occasionally he needs to be asked to step back, play with less reckless abandon, and make smarter decisions.
He’s more comfortable as a catch-and-shoot guy than pulling up off the dribble. Although he’s excellent at driving to the hoop, his ball handling is still erratic when it comes to creating his own shot from midrange.
His body type suites him to be designated as a stretch 4, yet he’s not skilled enough as a perimeter shooter to base his game around that. He’s decent as an outside shooter, but still needs work.
At this stage of his development, he seems to project more as a small forward, because he thrives when he’s allowed to run the court and play above the rim.
He doesn’t have ideal strength to play in the post, and his outside shot is still too inconsistent for him to be maximized as a stretch 4, especially when it would limit the other unique skills he brings to the game.
Another interesting characteristic about Hernangomez is that it appears like he’s willing to come to the NBA as soon as possible. Although his defense could use further development before being put to the test against NBA players, Hernangomez seems relatively ready to make the transition to the NBA on offense.
His shot could be improved in San Antonio under shooting guru Chip Engelland, and it would make his offensive repertoire even more dynamic. Basic growing pains are to be expected, but Hernangomez brings distinct talents to any team that drafts him.
His ceiling isn’t clear at this point, but it looks like his anticipated floor would be tolerable. Any team can make use of Hernangomez’s endless supply of energy.
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Based on athleticism and vigor alone, Hernangomez would be a great fit in San Antonio. His defensive weaknesses are concerning, but coaches will always be optimistic about improvement with a player of his agility and length.