Willy Hernangomez Fulfilling Potential in New York

Photo Credit: Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Willy Hernangomez Fulfilling Potential in New York


Willy Hernangomez has outplayed Joakim Noah a number of times this season… and New York Knicks fans are completely shaking their heads watching it.

The New York Knicks were keen on signing a big name center this past offseason to be an anchor in the paint and provide production from the five spot. Due to the $22 million salary cap increase, New York had to pay through the nose to fulfill their needs. Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah was their best option, as they inked a four-year, $72 million contract with him, a move that baffled Knicks fans because of the tremendous price tag for an above-average center.

Known as Kristaps Porzingis’ frontcourt mate while playing together in Spain, the New York Knicks traded for 2015 No. 35 overall pick Willy Hernangomez on draft night to reunite the two. So far in 2016-17, Hernangomez has been more effective than New York’s $72 million man Joakim Noah arguably all season and has shown great potential on the court.

New York Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek has used Hernangomez in a number of ways all season, and has strived in each of them. Whether coming off the bench providing a spark with his ability to work in the paint and crash the boards, the 22-year-old center has emerged as a valuable bigman for New York. Proving himself behind Joakim Noah and Kyle O’Quinn has been tough, but his offensive numbers and prowess on the defensive end have proved to coach Hornacek–as well as Knicks fans–that his skills must be utilized on a nightly basis.

If he keeps up his level of play, Hernangomez can potentially crack the starting center spot very soon. He is a better scorer around the bucket than Noah and arguably a better playmaker, as he earns most of his points off the high screen-and-roll or in the post. Also, Hernangomez is younger (22) than both Noah (31) and O’Quinn (26). Hernangomez is only one of two Knicks players–along with Ron Baker–to have a positive net rating (New York outscoring their opponent) while on the floor.

In 14.4 minutes per game throughout 43 New York Knicks games, Willy Hernangomez’s averages include 6.1 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. His 53.4% shooting from the field proves his efficiency in the paint.

In his first career start, Hernangomez had a huge night on the boards, finishing with 15 points, 14 rebounds, and 4 assists in New York’s 117-101 loss to Washington on January 31, 2017. The next night, in New York’s nail biting win over Brooklyn, Hernangomez topped his career-night grabbing 16 rebounds along with 16 points, this time off the bench.


“He doesn’t have any fear,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said of his backup center after New York’s crosstown win over Brooklyn on Wednesday. “He knows how to play the game. He positions himself very well. He’s got the experience somehow for a young guy to know this, the way he reads it and he’s able to get those rebounds.”


New York is paying just $1.4 million per season over the next four years for Hernangomez’s abilities, a bargain for a team that is struggling in the win column. Head coach Jeff Hornacek should use the second half of the 2016-17 season to establish the 22-year-old as an everyday starter, giving him a taste of what his future will hold.

If Willy Hernangomez continues to grow, he and Kristaps Porzingis can become one of the best, young frontcourt tandems in the NBA in the coming years.


“I want to be ready for the moment,” Hernangomez said. “I want to play in the NBA for years and I’m working on that.”




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