FIBA World Cup could be a key developmental step for Hernangomez

Nuggets Forward Juancho Hernangomez looks to fine tune aspects of his game with the Spanish National Team

Denver Nuggets forward Juancho Hernangomez (41) motions after a play in the third quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Pepsi Center.
Dec 14, 2018; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Juancho Hernangomez (41) motions after a play in the third quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Juancho Hernangomez has always been a fascinating and somewhat frustrating prospect for the Denver Nuggets.

He has the raw tools to become a solid contributor on an NBA roster, but the question has always been if he could put them all together while staying healthy. While his defense leaves a little to be desired, he can be a valuable scoring threat for the Nuggets on the wing while still playing within the flow of the Nuggets’ offense.

The early returns from Hernangomez’s time with the Spanish National Team have been a bit of a mixed bag. In the first two games, he is averaging 10.5 points per game with a total +/- of +23. The Spanish National Team has been better with him on the floor, but he has not been able to knock down shots as consistently as he had hoped. He is currently shooting 36% from the field and 20% from three point range.

While those numbers aren’t great, Hernangomez’s opportunity to get a lot of playing time with a team that very well could make some noise in the tournament has to be seen as a huge positive. Any game reps he can get with and against NBA players could be very helpful as he looks to log consistent minutes in a stacked Nuggets rotation.

Ever since the Nuggets took Hernangomez with the 15th overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, he has been a bit of a fringe player on the Nuggets roster; a highly talented player who has had some bad luck with injuries and inconsistent play. If he can use this opportunity to work on some of the weaker aspects of his game, that could be huge for the Nuggets rotation.

Denver already has some solid options at the wing with Torrey Craig and Will Barton getting the lions’ share of the minutes at small forward. Hernangomez could provide another aspect that other teams have to gameplan for, with the potential ability to play either forward position.

Before that can happen, Hernangomez must continue to work on his defense, namely his court awareness and the overall attitude that it takes to be a good defender in the NBA. This stint with the Spanish National Team is a golden opportunity to do just that because game reps are the only way to get comfortable in a positive defensive mindset.

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