New York Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek openly discussed Willy Hernangomez’s role and playing time. The rookie is making it hard to bench him.
Five years from now, fans may look back at the 2015 NBA Draft as the night that Phil Jackson saved the New York Knicks. There have been a number of questionable decisions along the way, but Jackson may have found his building blocks at that event.
With Kristaps Porzingis having already earned his place as one of the keys to the future, 2015 second-round draft pick Willy Hernangomez is beginning to make a legacy of his own.
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Hernangomez has put together a strong rookie season for the Knicks in 2016-17. Despite fluctuating minutes and an inconsistent role, he’s been a consummate professional and the ultimate team player.
According to Al Iannazzone of Newsday, Willy Hernangomez is making it tough for head coach Jeff Hornacek to take him off the court.
“Coaches always say, ‘Make the coaches not want to pull you off the court.’ That’s how you get minutes,” Hornacek said. “Willy’s done a great job. Not just on the boards, I think his defense is picking up.”
“Most young guys, guys coming from Europe, they don’t know these players that well. But we always said as he goes on through this year, he’s going to get better and better once he sees guys a second and a third time. He’s improving every day and we love when he’s out there.”
What Hornacek is saying coincides with the numbers that firmly establish Hernangomez’s value to the Knicks.
Hernangomez is currently averaging 6.1 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.8 offensive rebounds in 14.4 minutes per game. He’s shooting 53.4 percent from the field and 74.1 percent from the free throw line.
Though said numbers may not jump off the page, they translate to 15.2 points, 14.0 rebounds, and 4.6 offensive rebounds per 36 minutes.
In recent weeks, Hernangomez has turned a rise in playing time into a stretch that has created team-wide optimism.
Over his past nine appearances, Hernangomez is averaging 9.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, 3.8 offensive boards, and 1.4 assists in just 19.8 minutes per game. He has four double-doubles during that stretch and two other games with 14 and 16 rebounds respectively.
For perspective: Hernangomez has only played upwards of 30 minutes in one of those nine games.
Beyond the individual numbers, Hernangomez is having a positive impact on the Knicks. Thus far in 2016-17, New York has net ratings of +1.5 with Hernangomez on the court and -4.6 when he isn’t.
Hernangomez also has a positive Defensive RPM, which further displays how valuable he’s been to the New York Knicks when he takes the court.