Juan Hernangomez, PF/SF, Estudiantes (Spain)

Another European star the Nuggets will surely consider drafting tonight is Juan Hernangomez, the 20-year-old who had a great season playing for Estudiantes in Spain’s top league. Hernangomez stands at 6-foot-9 and 220 pounds, projecting as a combo forward in the NBA that can impact the game in multiple ways.

Strengths

The Spaniard can score from both the perimeter and block, and is comfortable in both the pick and roll  and pick and pop.  His shot is most deadly in spot-up situations and out of the pick and pop, and he improved his 3-point shot considerably, reaching the high-30s last season.

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Hernangomez reads the defense quickly in pick and pop plays, releasing a shot or blowing by closeouts to the rim and averaged 9.8 points on 46.9 percent shooting and 5.6 rebounds per game in Spain’s top league last season.

He is fluid, but not an amazing athlete. He can finish above the rim and does show good verticality defending the basket. He’s also comfortable spotting up off screens, a necessary skill for stretch fours and has a great feel for the game too at such a young age.

Hernangomez brings a fiery energy to every game he plays and competes for rebounds and has great hands in traffic, which will allow him to play the four in the NBA.

He does a lot of things well offensively and though his defense needs work, he plays with effort on that side of the ball. These attributes should keep him on the floor for heavy minutes as an important role player down the road.

Weaknesses

The biggest knock on Hernangomez is his play on the defensive end of the floor. He’s a bit of a tweener at 6-foot-9, as he can get exposed by quicker players on the perimeter and bullied by big men in the post. His body needs to fill out a bit more if he’s ever going to be a passable one-on-one post defender.

His shot can betray him at times and although Hernangomez is a right handed, he releases the ball at times from the left side of his face, which can lead to bad misses. He also can’t shoot his jumper on the move at this point and if he’s run off his spot and doesn’t have a clean driving lane, he tends to throw up a bad shot or turn the ball over.

Potential fit in Denver – The Nuggets don’t want to bring three new first-round picks into next season’s training camp. So it’s always been probable that they take a foreign player and stash him overseas for a year or two. Hernangomez is a prime candidate for that strategy. He will only get better playing among Spain’s top players and doesn’t turn 21 until September. His variety of skills and physical tools will continue to bolster Denver’s international pipeline.

Current projection – There’s a good chance Hernangomez will be available at No. 19 for the Nuggets to take, should they keep that pick. If they really want him they can grab him at No. 15, but there’s also a chance he could slide into the 20s. The mid to late first round could go in a number of directions, especially given the surplus of international talent available.

Dan Fatigato

Dan Fatigato grew up outside of Chicago in the midst of the Bulls championship runs. He moved to Austin, TX, in 2000 before attending CU-Boulder from 2003-07, where he fell in love with the Nuggets. At CU he served as the Sports Editor for the Campus Press and freelanced for the Boulder Daily Camera sports section. After seven years in the enterprise software industry, Fatigato has gone back to his sportswriting roots. Follow his NBA blog at www.downontheblock.co.

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