Willy Hernangomez

Pelicans Notes: Zion, Offseason, Hernangomez

What’s the best way for the Pelicans to use Zion Williamson, who missed all of last season while recovering from a broken foot? Christian Clark of NOLA.com (subscriber link) tackles that question, examining how Williamson’s previous coaches utilized him on the court.

Under Mike Krzyzewski at Duke, Williamson primarily scored out of post-ups, put-backs, and lobs, averaging 22.6 points on just 13.2 shot attempts per game due to his outstanding 68% field goal percentage. As Clark writes, Williamson was a dynamic defender in his lone college season, though that hasn’t translated to the NBA.

As a rookie under Alvin Gentry, Williamson’s season was disrupted, appearing in a total of 24 games. When healthy, Williamson was again primarily utilized down low, averaging the seventh-most post-ups per game (6.9) in the NBA, Clark notes.

Things changed fairly dramatically in 2020/21, Williamson’s most healthy season to date. Stan Van Gundy allowed Williamson more on-ball opportunities, and he responded with an All-Star appearance while averaging 27 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists on .611/.294/.698 shooting.

According to Clark, Williamson’s drives per game more than doubled in his second season (5.0 to 12.9), and after not logging a single possession as a pick-and-roll ball-handler as a rookie, he recorded 3.2 per game in ’20/21.

Williamson has yet to play under head coach Willie Green, but Green is known for preaching ball movement and asking players to making quick decisions, Clark adds.

Ultimately, Clark says he’d be surprised if Williamson is used as an initiator as frequently as he was a couple of years ago due to the addition of CJ McCollum in February. He also notes that individual statistics will likely have to be sacrificed amongst the team’s leading scorers (Brandon Ingram, Williamson, McCollum, and Jonas Valanciunas).

Here’s more from New Orleans:

  • Andrew Lopez of ESPN takes a look at how Williamson has spent his offseason thus far, including signing a maximum-salary rookie scale extension and a trip to Las Vegas to support the Summer League squad.
  • In a separate article for NOLA.com, Clark interviews reserve center Willy Hernangomez. Most of the Q&A session is focused on international competition, as Hernangomez is set to play for Spain in the upcoming EuroBasket tournament, which begins September 1. The 28-year-old averaged 9.1 points and 6.8 rebounds in 50 games (16.8 minutes) for New Orleans last season. As we noted last week, Valanciunas (Lithuania) will also be competing at EuroBasket.
  • In case you missed it, Luke Adams took a look at the Pelicans’ pre-camp roster situation within an article earlier today about the Southwest Division.

More Than 30 NBA Players On Track To Suit Up For EuroBasket

The first EuroBasket tournament in five years will tip off in two weeks and there are currently 34 NBA players on track to participate in the event, representing 17 different countries, according to Johnny Askounis of Eurohoops.net.

EuroBasket is a 24-team international basketball competition also known as the European Basketball Championship. It historically took place every two years, but that gap was recently adjusted to four years, emulating the FIBA World Cup schedule.

The last EuroBasket tournament was played in 2017 — the next one had been scheduled for 2021, but was pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics. As a result, after being played every two years since 1947, it has now been five years since the last EuroBasket tournament, easily the longest layoff since World War II.

It’s possible that some NBA players will be cut from their teams’ rosters or will have to drop out due to injuries or personal reasons before the event begins on September 1, but in general enthusiasm to participate in the long-awaited event appears high.

Here’s the list of NBAers currently set to play in EuroBasket, per Eurohoops:

There are also multiple NBA free agents on EuroBasket rosters, including French swingman Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and German guard Dennis Schröder.

A number of young NBA players, such as 2022 draftees Jeremy Sochan and Nikola Jovic, have dropped out to focus on getting ready for the 2022/23 season, while others, including Bogdan Bogdanovic (Serbia) and Frank Ntilikina (France), were ruled out due to injuries.

Round robin play will begin on September 1, with each team facing the other five clubs in its group once. The top four teams in each group will advance to a 16-team bracket that begins on September 10. The final will take place on September 18, just over a week before NBA training camps get underway.

Southwest Notes: White, Hernangomez, McCollum, Spurs

Spurs guard Derrick White was shocked by the team’s decision to trade him to the Celtics this week, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News writes. By trading White, San Antonio acquired Josh Richardson, Romeo Langford, a 2022 first-round pick (top-four protected), and the right to swap first-round picks with Boston in 2028 (top-one protected).

“The whole coaching staff, training staff, front office – I had a lot of love for everybody, all my teammates and everything,” he said. “So, I can’t really put into words how much I love all of them. It was hard for me, but I knew once I got here, it’s a new chapter and I am ready to get after it.”

White will add backcourt depth to a Celtics team that also traded Dennis Schröder on Thursday. He made his debut on Friday against Denver, recording 15 points and six rebounds in 28 minutes off the bench.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Pelicans center Willy Hernangomez has exited the NBA’s health and safety protocols, according to ESPN’s Andrew Lopez (Twitter link). Hernangomez is expected to be available for the team’s game against San Antonio on Saturday. He originally entered protocols on February 3.
  • The Pelicans and Trail Blazers didn’t require any physicals in the trade that featured star guard CJ McCollum, Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report tweets. ESPN’s Bobby Marks said on The Lowe Post that New Orleans waived McCollum’s physical (hat tip RealGM), so it’s still unclear if physicals were waived for all of the players involved in the deal. As Marks notes, it’s unusual for a team to waive a physical when the player has significant money left on his contract. McCollum will make $30.9MM this season, $33.3MM in 2022/23 and $35.8MM in 2023/24. He missed time due to a collapsed lung back in December.
  • The Spurs are entering a new phase of its rebuild, Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News writes. In addition to trading White, the team also made some other moves on Thursday, including sending veteran forward Thaddeus Young to Toronto. San Antonio currently ranks 12th in the Western Conference at 21-35.

Western Notes: Mitchell, Carmelo, Pelicans, Collins

Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell will return to action on Friday night vs. Brooklyn after missing the club’s last eight games due to a concussion. While he’s happy to be back, Mitchell admitted to reporters on Friday that it’s been a long few weeks recovering from his second concussion of the season and his fourth concussion overall.

“I got to a point where I was kind of a little nervous,” Mitchell said, per the Jazz’s website. “… To be honest, I was like, ‘What happened?’ because I knew this was bad. I really wasn’t doing anything on my phone, not playing Xbox, not leaving the house. … It was bad. The headache (and) the nausea were pretty messed up.”

Mitchell and the Jazz are still missing Rudy Gobert, but they’ll be facing a shorthanded Nets club. Already without Kevin Durant, Brooklyn announced today that James Harden will be out due to left hamstring tightness.

Here are a few more notes from around the Western Conference:

  • Lakers forward Carmelo Anthony exited Thursday’s game against the Clippers early due to a right hamstring strain, but there’s optimism that the injury isn’t serious, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Sources tell Wojnarowski that Anthony is being considered day-to-day for now.
  • Pelicans big man Willy Hernangomez and guard Garrett Temple entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols on Thursday, per Christian Clark of NOLA.com (Twitter link). New Orleans now has three players in the protocols, with the two new additions joining injured wing Didi Louzada.
  • Spurs big man Zach Collins, who isn’t on Friday’s injury report, is thrilled to be cleared to play in an NBA game for the first time since August 2020 after enduring a long, challenging recovery process following an ankle injury. “I’m excited, nervous, anxious — but mostly excited,” Collins said on Thursday, per Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. “Now I’m back to normal life.”

Southwest Notes: M. Brown, Grizzlies, Pelicans, Wall

Mavericks fans have been clamoring for Moses Brown to get a longer look at center, but head coach Jason Kidd appears in no rush to insert the 22-year-old into the rotation, writes Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News.

Dwight Powell and Willie Cauley-Stein remain ahead of Brown on the depth chart, Boban Marjanovic is still in the mix, and Kidd also sounds interested in experimenting more with Maxi Kleber in the starting lineup, shifting Kristaps Porzingis to the five. As a result, the Mavericks’ head coach isn’t making any promises to the fans who want to see more of Brown.

“He could get a chance,” Kidd said, per Townsend. “I think for fans, or for anybody, if they look at our roster we have quite a few centers. So there’s a committee of centers. And at some point, maybe he [Brown] has an opportunity to play.”

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal takes a look at what’s next for the Grizzlies with Ja Morant sidelined due to a sprained knee. Morant has the league’s third-highest usage rate among point guards, so Memphis will try to replace him using a committee, with Tyus Jones, Desmond Bane, De’Anthony Melton, and Kyle Anderson all taking on added ball-handling responsibilities.
  • Jaxson Hayes opened the season as the Pelicans‘ primary backup center, but Willy Hernangomez has taken over that role in New Orleans’ last four games. Scott Kushner of NOLA.com writes that Hayes was handed his minutes, while Hernangomez – who re-signed with the team over the summer – has fought to earn his.
  • John Hollinger of The Athletic is confused about why John Wall and the Rockets are at an impasse over whether or not he starts. Hollinger thinks Houston should be open to putting Wall in the starting lineup, where he could make life easier for Jalen Green, but also believes Wall shouldn’t be too hung up on starting, since potential suitors aren’t going to view him any differently if he’s coming off the bench.

Pelicans Notes: Zion, Alexander-Walker, Hayes, Jones

Zion Williamson‘s weight and conditioning are receiving increased scrutiny as his recovery from offseason foot surgery drags on, according to Christian Clark of NOLA.com, who notes that multiple members of the national media have focused on the issue this week.

In a Substack article about the Pelicans star, veteran reporter Marc Stein suggested that Williamson has to be a “more active participant in his own recovery” and must find a way to better manage his weight. Former teammate J.J. Redick, now an analyst for ESPN, stated that Zion “has to be in better shape.” TNT’s television studio analysts also weighed in on the subject on Tuesday, with Charles Barkley joking that recent video of Williamson working out “looked like me and Shaq had a baby.”

Pelicans fans can’t be thrilled that Williamson continues to battle health problems as Ja Morant continues to emerge as one of the league’s brightest young stars in Memphis, but it’s revision history to suggest New Orleans should’ve drafted Morant over Zion with the No. 1 overall pick in 2019, Stein notes. According to Stein, he recently asked executives from 10 different teams about that choice and only one said he might’ve been willing to take Morant first overall two years ago — and even that exec acknowledged that team ownership probably wouldn’t have signed off.

Here’s more on the Pelicans:

  • The 1-8 Pelicans can reasonably expect to be better once Williamson and Brandon Ingram (hip) are back on the court, but it’s a discouraging sign that other young breakout candidates – such as Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Jaxson Hayes – are off to underwhelming starts this season, writes William Guillory of The Athletic.
  • Hayes, who is typically the backup center behind Jonas Valanciunas, was replaced on the depth chart by Willy Hernangomez in Wednesday’s game, Clark writes for NOLA.com. Hayes only logged four minutes and didn’t play in the second half. It’s unclear if that was just a one-game change or if Hernangomez could see more action going forward, says Clark.
  • Pelicans rookie Herb Jones was placed in the NBA’s concussion protocol on Wednesday after sustaining a concussion in Tuesday’s game vs. Phoenix, the team announced in a press release. He’ll have to show he’s symptom-free before being cleared to return.

Pelicans Notes: Hernangomez, Jones, Murphy, Marshall, Green

Willy Hernangomez‘s new three-year contract with the Pelicans will be fully guaranteed for the first two years with a team option for year three, according to Andrew Lopez of ESPN (Twitter link).

Lopez also provides the year-by-year breakdown of Hernangomez’s new deal. The Pelicans held the big man’s Non-Bird rights, giving them the ability to offer a starting salary worth 120% of his $1,939,350 minimum salary. That means Hernangomez will earn $2,327,220 in 2021/22, with 5% annual raises on that amount. The three-year contract will be worth about $7.33MM in total.

Here’s more on the Pelicans:

  • Herb Jones‘ three-year contract with the Pelicans will be worth more than the minimum for the first two seasons, according to Lopez, who tweets that the No. 35 pick will earn $1.7MM in 2021/22 and $1.785MM in ’22/23. Both of those amounts will be fully guaranteed, followed by a minimum-salary ($1.836MM) team option in ’23/24. New Orleans is using a small part of its mid-level exception on Jones.
  • William Guillory of The Athletic checks in on the Pelicans who have turned heads at the Las Vegas Summer League, writing that Trey Murphy and Naji Marshall look capable of emerging as regular rotation players on the wing. New head coach Willie Green has also done a good job emphasizing ball movement and defensive activity, according to Guillory, who says those are two areas the team needs to improve in 2021/22.
  • After reaching a deal with restricted free agent Josh Hart, the Pelicans look like they’ll be just about finished with their offseason business, writes Christian Clark of NOLA.com. The team will have 15 players on guaranteed contracts and will have to rely heavily on internal growth from its young players in order to compete for a playoff spot in 2021/22.

Pelicans Re-Sign Willy Hernangomez To Three-Year Deal

AUGUST 16: The Pelicans have officially re-signed Hernangomez, the team announced today in a press release. The club also confirmed Didi Louzada‘s new deal, which was finalized last week.

“The passion Willy and Didi have for their teammates and our greater Pelicans community is reflected every day in their approach to the game,” Pelicans head of basketball operations David Griffin said in a statement. “Their joyful outlook, work ethic, attention to detail and desire to grow and evolve as professionals has been infectious and we look forward to continuing towards our goals together deep into the future.”

AUGUST 6: The Pelicans have agreed to a three-year deal with Willy Hernangomez that will keep the veteran big man in New Orleans, agents Jim Tanner and Guillermo Bermejo tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). The third year will be a team option, tweets Christian Clark of NOLA.com.

Hernangomez, 27, spent his first four NBA seasons in New York and Charlotte before joining the Pelicans as a free agent last November. In his first year with the team, he averaged 7.8 PPG, 7.1 RPG, and 1.1 APG in 47 games (18.0 MPG) and was the starting center in the season’s final weeks.

Most recently, Hernangomez represented Spain in the Tokyo Olympics, posting a double-double (10 points, 10 rebounds) in the team’s quarterfinal loss to Team USA earlier this week.

Hernangomez was on a minimum-salary contract last season and New Orleans only held his Non-Bird rights, so the team’s ability to offer a raise without using cap room or another exception (ie. the mid-level) was limited. We’ll have to wait for the financial terms on Hernangomez’s deal to get a sense of how the Pelicans are re-signing him.

Olympic Notes: Spain, Simmons, Nigeria, Turkey, Garland

Veteran center Pau Gasol, who has represented Spain in four Olympic tournaments so far, remains on track to be part of the team in Tokyo, per an Associated Press report. Gasol was one of 18 players included on Spain’s preliminary roster for the Tokyo games, joining his brother – Lakers center Marc Gasol – and Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio.

Timberwolves forward Juan Hernangomez, Pelicans big man Willy Hernangomez, and projected first-round pick Usman Garuba are among the other notable names on Spain’s preliminary roster, according to The Associated Press.

Here’s more on the Tokyo Olympics:

Pelicans Notes: Hernangomez, Van Gundy, 3-Point Shooting

Pelicans executive VP of basketball operations David Griffin would like to re-sign reserve center and unrestricted free agent Willy Hernangomez after the Summer Olympics, Christian Clark of NOLA.com reports. Hernangomez is a member of the Spanish national team.

“Willy is going to play meaningful basketball games,” Griffin said. “He’s going to go there, and even though we can’t sign him officially necessarily before he leaves for Spain, he’s going to go there identifying himself as a Pelican, and that’s important for us.”

Hernangomez started nine of New Orleans’ final 10 games and averaged 12.3 PPG and 10.4 RPG.

We have more on the Pelicans:

  • There was tension at times between coach Stan Van Gundy and his players during the season, Scott Kushner of NOLA.com reports. However, Van Gundy was thrust into the role of ‘bad guy’ who held players accountable, since the team’s young stars didn’t do that. It’s crucial that accountability shifts from Van Gundy to Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram in order for the defense and late-game execution to improve, Kushner adds.
  • The team sank to the bottom five in the league in 3-point shooting this season and Griffin said he’ll upgrade the roster in that area, Clark writes in a separate story. With extra first-round picks at his disposal, Griffin has the assets to trade for a perimeter threat or two. He could even deal this year’s lottery pick for proven talent, Clark adds. “We’re in a situation where there is a world of optionality to us,” Griffin said. “The pick assets we have give us incredible flexibility.”
  • Why could Tuesday turn out to be a pivotal day for the Pelicans organization? Get the details here.