Willy Hernangomez presents an interesting long term dilemma for the New York Knicks 7
Feb 1, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; New York Knicks center Willy Hernangomez (14) reacts during the fourth quarter against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the Knicks first half woes, rookie center Willy Hernangomez has been a bright spot for the New York Knicks. He also presents an interesting long-term dilemma for them.

The 2016-17 NBA season has been a catastrophe for the New York Knicks. With the second half of the year about to start, the Knicks are the 11th seed in the Eastern Conference at just 23-34.

A disappointing year yet again. However, despite their failures to compete in the Eastern Conference, big man Willy Hernangomez has been a bright spot in a dark season for the Knicks. Interestingly enough, he also presents an interesting long-term dilemma for them.

Despite the Knicks 2017 woes, Willy Hernangomez has been a pleasant surprise. The Philadelphia 76ers drafted the 22-year-old Spaniard from Real Madrid in the 2015 draft and Phil Jackson (stunningly, making this solid move), acquired his rights. In his brief stint in the NBA, he’s made his presence known.

Hernangomez has been productive in the limited amount of minutes he’s been given. In the 15.7 minutes a game he’s playing, Hernangomez is averaging 6.6 points and 5.9 rebounds a game. Considering that it’s his first year in the NBA, Hernangomez has held his own thus far his rookie year, and while they’re not eye-popping, his numbers don’t show his complete arsenal.

While his numbers are solid, they don’t necessarily show his two-way play. Hernangomez can post up, hit the offensive boards, and is also improving his jumper. His defense is just as important to his game, though.

In addition to his offensive output, Hernangomez is somewhat of a defensive presence with much potential. He can defend the post, is a rim protector and also hits the boards. His game is held back, though, by Joakim Noah.

Noah’s massive 72 million dollar contract keeps him in the starting lineup, but he’s been underwhelming this year, to say the least. He hasn’t finished in the paint and he hasn’t been the defensive force the Knicks thought they were getting. Whether it’s this year, or sometime in the future, Hernangomez will overtake Noah in the starting lineup, but doing so also presents an interesting dilemma.

With the NBA becoming a point guard driven league, the league has begun to trend towards small ball lineups. Those lineups tend to feature small forwards being moved up to power forward, to help make lineups quicker and more adapt to playing out on the perimeter.

How does this affect the Knicks?

Currently, the Knicks are preparing to begin building their franchise around forward Kristaps Porzingis. The biggest question though is what position do the Knicks see Porzingis playing? While he stands at 7-foot-3, no one knows for sure whether the Knicks envision Porzingis playing power forward or center. Since there’s confusion among the Knicks brass and the ones who follow the franchise’s every move, it’s not crazy to think that the Knicks plan to go with Hernangomez at center long term. That would result in Porzingis being their long term power forward.

Should the Knicks go forward with this?

If the Knicks opt to go with both Hernangomez and Porzingis in the starting lineup, they’ll be going against the modern day small trend. Another thing to consider is the future of Carmelo Anthony. Anthony has been long rumored to being shopped by the Knicks, but now it now appears as if the veteran forward may survive the deadline; however, it’s unlikely that Anthony will not be on the roster past this year. That may result in the Knicks searching for their next cornerstone player in this year’s NBA draft.

Who could that be?

Feb 11, 2017; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans guard Miles Bridges (22) attempts a three point basket against the Iowa Hawkeyes during the second half at the Jack Breslin Student Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

If Anthony is dealt, one must wonder whether the Knicks will look to find his successor in the draft. Michigan State forward Miles Bridges could be that guy.

The freshman forward is averaging 16.1 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game while shooting 49.6 percent from the field. His two-way play is something which may intrigue the Knicks. If that’s case, then he’ll be their small forward of the future.

If the Knicks can get a young, athletic, two-way forward like Bridges, then they can afford to go big on their frontline with Hernangomez and Porzingis. While it would go against the modern day small ball trend, Hernangomez being the Knicks long term answer at center would be worth it and doable if the Knicks can land an athletic forward in the draft, such as Bridges.

Rookie big man Willy Hernangomez is presenting an interesting long-term dilemma for the Knicks — whether to go against the small ball trend or not. While he hasn’t received the minutes, Hernangomez has shown some potential and the ability to be the Knicks long term center, a move which forces Kristaps Porzingis to the power forward spot long-term.

 NEXT: Trading Melo to Boston works for all parties involved 


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Robbie Stratakos

Robbie Stratakos is a New York Knicks/Giants Beat Writer for Elite Sports NY (ESNY); he also covers the NBA nationally. He previously wrote at Last Word On Pro Basketball and Empire Writes Back. In addition to writing for ESNY, Robbie is an MLB columnist at Baseball Essential. He previously wrote at HardBallScoop – part of Scout/CBS Interactive/247Sports, Last Word On Baseball and District On Deck. He is attending Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, New York. Follow him on twitter @RPStratakos