It's Willy time!
Spanish center Willy Hernangomez will be joining the New York Knicks next season, as first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical.
The 22-year-old joins the team after one year with Real Madrid. He played a small role for the Spanish champions, averaging 11.1 minutes per game in Euroleague and 11.3 in the Spanish ACB. He racked up multiple DNP-CDs because he was essentially a less effective version of Madrid's starting center Gustavo Ayon. Now, he will be Joakim Noah's apprentice in New York.
With Willy, Knicks fans can expect an up-and-down year. He is a special offensive talent. He has nice post moves, a soft touch, a good mid-range J, and vision/passing abilities that are very advanced for his age. Check out this perfect lefty pass from underneath the rim out to an open 3-point shooter (and sorry for the grainy videos -- I'm running a low-budget, low-tech operation here).
That's some NBA-big man caliber shit. He had another gorgeous lefty pass last summer for the Spanish national team (0:33 of the video below).
Not many 6'11 guys are capable of making that type of pass on the move. He is also a good high-low passer and he already has good chemistry with Porzingis from their days in Sevilla. When the two played together during the 2014-15 season, Willy became the youngest player in ACB history to post 29 points and 13 rebounds in a game, and he did it against Euroleague powerhouse Barcelona. You can watch the full game here.
Willy is spending the summer training for the Olympics with the Spanish national team, and if Marc Gasol's injury keeps him out, Willy will definitely make the team and back up Pau Gasol. The Olympic experience is always good for young players, and perhaps more importantly, he has all summer to learn from Marc.
Willy's body is more similar to Marc than Pau. He does not have what you'd consider "NBA athleticism." He runs the floor hard, but he can't jump, he struggles to slide his feet defensively (despite great footwork on the offensive end) and he is a horrible pick-and-roll defender. He was badly exposed in pick-and-rolls at the Euroleague level, and it will be his biggest problem in the NBA.
Check out his defensive lapses vs. Greek club Olympiacos. As soon as he entered the game, Olympiacos changed their gameplan and just had whoever Willy was guarding set a screen. Here, he has bad timing, stands too tall, and gets beat for the easy layup.
The next time, he tried to hedge the pick hard, but he misjudged the ball-handler's speed and picked up an unnecessary foul.
Watch him throughout this possession (he starts at the top of the key). He handles the first pick-and-roll well, but the second and third are nightmares.
He desperately needs a good mentor to watch and learn from. At Real Madrid, his defense didn't improve because the team was full of trash defenders. Now, luckily, he gets to learn the nuances of spacing, timing and positioning from the Gasols and Noah. Combined with an NBA strength and nutrition program, he should be able to improve on his main weaknesses.
It's important for Knicks fans to keep their expectations for Willy in check. He's not Marc Gasol. He's probably never going to be a good defender, and he may never be a starting-caliber center. There's a reason he was a 2nd-round pick and not a top-20 one like his younger brother Juancho (drafted by the Nuggets this year). But he is a smart kid, he works hard and he'll provide some laughs.
His dance routine with Porzingis is already legendary and there's a 100% chance he'll show up to games with some wack haircuts.
If Real Madrid lose this game it's Willy's barber's fault. Can't let a kid show up to an elimination game like that pic.twitter.com/3iSwDzW4bF— Austin Green (@LosCrossovers) June 22, 2016
Between that and his offensive abilities, Knicks fans should enjoy the Willy experience.
Austin Green is an American journalist who reports on the Euroleague and Spanish ACB.
If you want to read more about new Knick Mindaugas Kuzminskas, we recommend this post from the eminent Rob Scott.