Willy Hernangomez is entering the fourth year of his young NBA career which has seen its ups and downs. This year I imagine will not only be his toughest yet, but also the most important.
Hernangomez has the potential to be the Hornets leading big man moving forward, but his has to play like it. However it’s not that easy. Depending on how head coach James Borrego uses his plethora of bigs (Willy, Cody Zeller, Bismack Biyombo) will greatly impact Hernangomez’s future with the organization and their belief in him.
Hernangomez is a traditional big, but has worked very hard on expanding his offensive game, stretching out to the three point line more and more. Last season he shot 38% from beyond the arc.
Offense is not Hernangomez’s problem, though. It’s defense. Often times he is late on rotating to protect the rim or is easily scored over. In 52 games last season he only recorded 20 blocked shots. I would classify Hernangomez defensively as a traffic cone.
His defensive concerns are important because last season, and presumably this season, the Hornets do not have great wing defenders which means rim protection becomes even more important that it already is.
Hernangomez has had a fantastic offseason. As a member of the Spain national team, the club won the 2019 FIBA Championship. Additionally, he has been in the gym all summer. I’m not throwing this in to push open gym propaganda, but rather to highlight Hernangomez’s willingness and desire to get better. You can easily tell how much he loves playing basketball which is important for young, developing players.
I’m hoping that Hernangomez is highly utilized this season for Charlotte. The organization needs to evaluate what they have in him moving forward. Is he a bench player or a starter? Can he become a viable defender? The only way to find out is to play him.