Year one of Larry Bird's exodus toward Pace and Space was met with mixed results. While on paper they got a little smaller and faster, the Pacers still relied heavily upon big lineups to carve out 45 exhausting wins. One critical reason the small-ball experiment failed to be a success was the Pacers' lack of small-ball ready fours on the roster. Once Paul George stated his disinterest in bumping up a position, there was little else on hand to fill the role until the revelation of Solomon Hill came along during the second half of the season. In Year Two, Bird has an opportunity to remedy this miscalculation, and it starts on draft night. His name? Juan Hernangomez...
Juan "Juancho" Hernangomez (Spain)
6' 9" 220lbs
Team: Estudiantes (ACB League)
How He Fits
Hernangomez nearly checks off all the boxes of the modern-day four. He plays multiple positions. He's a gazelle in the open floor (particularly at the four spot). He can stroke it from three. And, somewhat surprisingly given his slender frame, he boasted an elite rebounding rate in Spain. Oh, and he's just 20 years old, so there's plenty of room for him to expand his game as his body and mind matures. Most importantly, in a draft full of potential reaches just about anywhere outside of the top-10, he may very well be the best talent available at 20. Marrying best-player-available with need is every franchise's dream scenario on draft night.
How He Doesn't Fit
Defense, defense, defense. While slender and mobile, the 20-year-old Spaniard is likely to be taken advantage of against beefier frontcourt players ... at least initially. Additionally, DraftExpress notes that Hernangomez has so far struggled to guard on the perimeter due to poor mechanics. Fortunately, most of his perceived flaws on defense appear to be rooted in physical immaturity and inexperience, meaning they may be correctable over time. Lastly, while he's billed as a shooter, he's boasts a career mark of 33.8% from the Euro three, which is absolutely going to have to improve in today's shooting-obsessed NBA.
Denzel Valentine was a tempting option at 20, as were several other players, but Hernangomez possessed just the right mix of potential, need, and BPA. It might be best to dampen any excitement you may have for Hernangomez, however. The Pacers don't typically draft players they fail see up close in a workout, and as far we know, Henangomez hasn't travelled to Indy to showcase his skills.