International Scouting Report: Juan Hernangomez

via YouTube

via YouTube

Juan Hernangomez has always been a basketball player, even at the ripe young age of 12, he has been playing competitive basketball in Spain on the youth teams of CB Las Rozas and Real Madrid. His last name is a familiar one in the basketball scene – His father, Guillermo Hernangomez Heredero, was a power forward for several ACB teams during the mid-to-late 1980s. Younger sister Andrea plays for the Estudiantes Junior team. And most notably, his brother has helped pave the way for Juan to get noticed – massive 6’10” Willy Hernangomez has been a solid backup for Real Madrid, and was the 35th pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, and could be headed to the New York Knicks in the next year or two.

It should be no surprise then that Juan has been on the NBA Draft radar for this season, and is climbing steadily up the board in advance of June. The younger Hernangomez has locked down the starting center position for much of the season at Estudiantes, averaging 9.6 points and 5.5 rebounds per game in ACB play. While he’s played mostly center Hernangomez is believed to have the skill set of an impactful stretch four at the NBA level, thanks to his mobility, size, and outside shooting ability. He’s been a consistent producer this season, despite playing on the second-worst team in the ACB, and he’s done so in ways that could set him up for NBA success. However, his size is a bit concerning, as he projects as a bit of a tweener between power forward and small forward. Let’s dive in and look at Hernangomez’s potential fit.

Offense

Hernangomez currently plays out of position in relation to what his NBA fit will be. At 6’9″, 220 pounds, “Juancho” almost has the body of a modern NBA small forward, but has spent a lot of time at center. This gives him a unique skill set that combines perimeter play with a mean streak down low.

The biggest draw to Juancho’s game is his outside shooting. He’s very comfortable off the catch, and Estudiantes likes to throw him on the perimeter around the pick-and-roll, because he moves well off the ball and sets himself very well in spot-up situations. Hernangomez has shot 35.8 percent from 3-point range this year, and his percentages should improve with the better spacing of the 3-point line. He has remarkably consistent lift and timing on his jumper, and while his release can be a bit wonky (he air-balls a lot of the threes that he misses), he should be able to have a little more success when he has better spacing.

Hernangomez should also be a decent pick-and-roll scorer, thanks to his mobility and shooting. He most commonly gets pick-and-pop looks when he is the screener, and he does a nice job of flaring to 18-feet or the 3-point line. He’s also not afraid to go off the dribble off of these situations, and he draws contact well off of dribble-drives, averaging 5.6 free throw attempts per 40 minutes, an exceptional rate for a guy who’s not a primary ball-handler. These drives against closeouts and pick-and-roll coverage hint at a good fit for Hernangomez as a spot-up option, as he can shoot, attack, or pass out of these looks with success.

Hernangomez’s status as a “big” in Spain has also given him a decent low post game, and he can function as an outlet finisher or offensive rebounder fairly well despite his size. Hernangomez uses his quickness and instincts well on the offensive glass to compensate for his lack of bulk, and he does a great job of crashing the boards from the perimeter and tapping out long rebounds. When he does roll to the rim, he’s good at filling space, and while he needs work on finishing when he meets a defender on the roll, he has good athleticism to get up and at least draw contact if he has a step on the defender.

Where Hernangomez needs work offensively is confidence and decision-making. Hernangomez is a decent passer when the passes are simple, as he’s good at hitting dump-off passes on drives and swinging the ball on the perimeter. But when he’s tasked with creating on the perimeter, Hernangomez makes some risky passes, and he doesn’t display great court vision. Juancho’s turnover rate isn’t awful (13.43 percent), but he could stand to cut down on them, both from a passing and dribbling perspective. Hernangomez’s handle needs improvement as well, and he is prone to losing the ball on drives if opponents dig down to cut off thr drive. These aspects of Hernangomez’s game will likely prevent him from ever being more than a role player at the NBA level. However, he has enough skills both on the perimeter and in the paint that should allow him to be a weapon in an NBA offense.

Defense

Hernangomez’s positional experience and size may make him a more enticing offensive prospect, but defensively he’s hurt by the fact that he has the size to defend threes in the NBA, but has spent most of his career defending down low. Hernangomez’s defensive potential is probably lower than a guy like Paul Zipser, who projects as a better defender despite similar size constraints. That’s because Hernangomez’s skill set more naturally projects him defending fours at the next level, which could be problematic.

Hernangomez’s biggest strengths are defensive rebounding and rim protection. He posted a very solid defensive rebounding rate of 22.7 percent this year, and much like on the offensive glass, Hernangomez has no fear of tangling with much bigger opponents inside. He’s extremely physical with his box outs, and has good footwork underneath, which should allow him to fit in the NBA as a power rebounder. More surprising though, is that Hernangomez is comfortable stopping shots at the rim. He uses his body well against drives, getting verticality and bothering shots even without getting his hands on them. He posted a block rate of just 1.3 percent this season, but his athleticism and strength allow him to compensate for a lack of reach, and he should be comfortable operating as over-the-top pick-and-roll help moving forward.

One the perimeter, Hernangomez does have a knack for making heady plays. He has good hands (steal rate: 2.0), and he plays passing lanes and digs down well when tasked with double-teaming. However, Hernangomez needs significant improvement here. He lacks the lateral quickness to really be able to contain drives against quicker guards, and his positioning in the pick-and-roll needs significant development. Hernangomez gets blown by when tasked with containing a pick-and-roll ball-handler, as he doesn’t do a good job of cutting off the lane and he’s upright and flat-footed in his stance as he hedges off the screen.

Hernangomez also gambles a lot on the defensive end, and it brings to question how strong his awareness is. You will see him make occasional good plays and be in great position, but he also will have plays where he loses an opponent on a backdoor cut, or hugs too tightly to his man and doesn’t provide adequate help. He also will try to do too much on occasion, trying to jump a passing lane from a bad position or swiping at the ball in the post and giving up position in the process. Part of this could be a function of his team environment – after all, Hernangomez’s basketball IQ is strong overall, and he’s playing on a team that gives up a very bad (for Spain) 82.6 points per game and doesn’t offer much resistance overall defensively. For now, though, it appears that Hernangomez will need a lot of further development to become a competent perimeter defender, which could limit his early effectiveness as a player.

Overall Impression

Hernangomez has a decent skill set, and while he’s not quite ready to be an NBA player as of yet, there are tools here that could make him an intriguing stash option for a team picking in the late 1st or early 2nd round. If Hernangomez can add bulk or get better on the perimeter, it should allow him to more comfortably use his talents on the offensive end, where he has the makings of an Ersan Ilyasova-esque stretch four. The nice thing for Hernangomez is that he’s done with his Estudiantes deal after this season, meaning that he has the option to come to the NBA or D-League right away, or stay in Spain but move to a better situation for his development, much like his brother Willy did this past summer by moving to Real Madrid from Sevilla. Given a little bit more seasoning and time for his body to mature, Hernangomez should become NBA-ready, and could eventually be better than his older brother.