Sometimes the only thing you need to see from an aspiring NBA big man is the way in which he runs the floor. Most behemoths lumber their way down the hardwood with a sluggish demeanor, easily susceptible to rim-runs against opposing bigs that can cascade around the court like a jackrabbit.
The Nikola Pekovic's of the world have had their moment in the sun, but for the most part, GMs would prefer to have the fluidity of a Tristan Thompson type at the top of their front court. Elusiveness, malleability and a thirst for physicality are all requisite skills to survive the natural selection process in the NBA. Each of those skills are within the realm of Juan Hernangomez's game, and if he continues to hone those talents to create more consistency, some team is going to pick up a steal late in the first round.
Let's take a look.
Hernangomez's destiny in the league is of the stretch-four domain, and offensive-minded coaches are going to love his feel for the game on that end of the floor. He showcases a knowledge for what is going on, and parlays that knowledge into a litany of different ways to help an offense. The Spaniard shot 36 percent on threes last season, a coup for any player of his size (6-foot-9) and age (20). Perhaps his most lethal offensive skill in relation to today's NBA game would be when he is unleashed on a pick and pop.
Hernangomez sports a quick trigger that looks dandy when it is configured with the proper cohesion. Combine that with his understanding of offensive actions and coaches will fall in love with the untapped capabilities of such a young player.
The pick and pop game is all but expected from a big man prospect nowadays (especially from International players), but Hernanzgomez has shown a propensity for eliciting physical contact and being an above average finisher as a dive man on the pick and roll.
The sequence above is particularly encouraging because of the tight space in which Hernangomez had to work with. It is difficult to comprehend the composure needed to: screen, roll, catch a low bounce pass, and then finish with two defenders draping over your back. Hernangomez operates with cool composure and utilizes his soft hands en route to two points.
Having the ability to act as a pick and roll diver as well as a popper will open up massive opportunities for an offense within the half-court. Especially if Hernangomez is given the pleasure of playing with a heady point guard that can also create his own shot. Defenses will have to overcompensate one way or the other and in turn, a high percentage look will be the result.
Off the ball, any stationed shooter must be a potent threat not only because of their shooting prowess, but also in part to their knack for slicing cuts when applicable and ability to attack a defender during a closeout. Hernangomez is an opportune cutter, using his quicks to get into the lane in a jiffy when his defender takes a quick snooze.
This play may be the best illustration of Hernangomez's motor. He is always jittering around, hyperactively trying to make a play to help his team win. If he continues to be active and make that trait a featured part of his game, it will only increase his chances of creating a path for himself with an organization. GMs never let a prospect go who has a knack for making "winning plays."
Additionally, his tendency to attack closeouts by driving left is a unique misdirection ploy that causes defenders to be a half a step slow in their recovery.
The pace and control in which Hernangomez dribbles is a pleasant surprise for any front office when projecting his development, and it falls right under the "dribble, pass, shoot" mantra of the present day NBA.
Lastly, the talent that showed out most to me was easily Hernangomez's thirst for crashing the boards. Despite his slight frame -- 6-foot-9, 220 pounds -- the young forward relishes within an environment where physicality reigns supreme. He doesn't always need to be in proper position to make an impact on the boards, using his bouncy legs and above average length to sky over oppositions.
Obviously, his athleticism will be characterized more as pedestrian among the athletes in the NBA, but possessing a high-octane motor is a great start to becoming a strong rebounder.
Due to all of his hyperactivity, Hernangomez has fallen short on the defensive end of the floor during his short career. Too often he will get caught trying to go for the turnover when a simple shuffling of the feet would have proven to be more than enough to stifle the offense. This sort of gambling would shuffle the defensive rotations in a nonproductive way, and lead to easy lay-ins.
It will be a struggle for Hernangomez to harness his innate desire to make the big play for his team. Communication is going to be of the upmost importance, and he will have to learn how to play within the context of team defense. After all, a defense is incapable of playing on a string if one strand continually strays from the pack.
Another cause for concern would be the location in which Hernangomez lets go of the ball during his shooting motion. Since he places the ball on the left side of his face, there is a greater chance for misfires to take place and when they do, they can be pretty ugly.
Consistency is the calling card for any young player, though, and I am going to bet on Hernangomez ironing out his release once he is given the proper tutelage from an NBA coaching staff.
Fit with the Suns
Hernangomez has swiftly become one of my favorite candidates for the #28 pick. However, the early rumors have made him as a fit with the Philadelphia 76ers at #26, and I am going to take a shot in the dark and say that is going to come down to either him or Chinese prospect Zhou Qi for Philly. The Suns will therefore be at the mercy of whoever the Sixers choose to pass on -- which would not be the worst situation in the world. Let another organization make the tough decision for you.
Hernangomez has the upside and motor to be selected towards the end of the first round, but his fate as an NBA caliber stretch-four hinges on his adaptability on the defensive end and whether or not he can construct a consistent and compact shooting stroke.
He is such a Spurs pick isn't he? I am already mad.