New York Knicks rookie Willy Hernangomez has outplayed Joakim Noah and Kyle O’Quinn this season when given the minutes to show his skills.
The 22-year-old rookie from Madrid, Spain registered another double-double off the bench on Wednesday, lifting a lifeless Knicks team to victory over the Brooklyn Nets.
In the past 10 games, Hernangomez is averaging a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds, while playing a little under 20 minutes per game. During the same stretch, Noah is posting a stat line of two points, nine rebounds in 20 minutes, while shooting 35 percent compared to 51 percent by Hernangomez.
Hernangomez may add stability to a starting unit that seems to fall behind their opponent each game, by providing a solid inside presence with the ability to score and rebound.
He positions himself well in the post, possesses good hands to catch the ball on the interior and has a better back to the basket game than the other centers currently on the roster. Hernangomez has shown the capability to pass out of the post although Noah’s assists numbers are better.
Teammates have praised Hernangomez’ play since the start of the season, with Brandon Jennings stating, “Billy’s the next Marc Gasol to me,” comparing him to the fellow Spaniard and all-star center for the Memphis Grizzles. “I keep telling him he has so many similarities of Marc Gasol — his touch, the way he rebounds, his footwork, his moves,” via Fred Kerber of the New York Post.
Per 36 minutes, Noah only does two things better than both Hernangomez and O’Quinn that is offensive rebound and assist.
Defensively, Hernangomez performs better per 100 possessions, with teams scoring 10 points less when he plays as compared to Noah. He has quicker feet at this point in their respective careers, allowing him to defend the high pick and roll more efficiently.
Hernangomez has also impressed the Knicks franchise player, Carmelo Anthony.
“I like the Big Baby. He’s a guy who can score, he can pass, he can play D. He can do it all,” Anthony said earlier in the season. “I try to not make comparisons but I see a lot of Marc Gasol in him. That’s a great sign because Marc is a great player. So for him to have the skills knowing that he has at his age, it’s something special,” via Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.
From a developmental perspective, Hernangomez is the youngest of the group of centers and has the most upside. Him and star forward Kristaps Porzingis have advanced chemistry on the court from their days playing with Sevilla and are good friends off the court.
For some strange reason, Coach Jeff Hornacek has stuck it out with Noah in the starting rotation despite the Knicks being 5-1 when he does not play.
Common assumption attributes this mainly to Noah’s name and lofty contract, which unfortunately is not helping the team. With very little to lose going forward this season, it would absurd not to allow Hernangomez to develop on the court for the present success of the franchise as well as its future.