New York Knicks: Willy Hernangomez Is Ready For The NBA

Jun 25, 2015; Brooklyn, NY, USA; General view of the full first round draft board at the conclusion of the first round of the 2015 NBA Draft at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 25, 2015; Brooklyn, NY, USA; General view of the full first round draft board at the conclusion of the first round of the 2015 NBA Draft at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /

New York Knicks rookie Willy Hernangomez is ready for the NBA. Close friend and teammate Kristaps Porzingis is a powerful reason why.

The New York Knicks have wholly committed to the international movement. Selecting Kristaps Porzingis at No. 4 overall was progress, but it was in the second round that Phil Jackson solidified that commitment by acquiring Willy Hernangomez.

Roughly a year later, the Knicks signed Hernangomez to a four-year deal that clearly displayed his long-term value to the team.

For those unfamiliar, New York acquired Hernangomez from the Philadelphia 76ers at the 2015 NBA Draft. He then spent the 2015-16 season with Real Madrid of Liga ACB before signing a four-year contract with the Knicks in July.

According to Marc Berman of The New York Post, Hernangomez believes that he’s ready to play in the NBA.

"“I’m really excited,” said Hernangomez, who signed a three-year deal with an average salary of $1.4 million per year. “I feel like my dream has come true. It’s a big city. I can’t wait to see my new teammates. I think I have to work at a lot of things to be a good player. I want to continue my work. We will see, but I think I’m ready to play in the NBA.”"

No one knows how ready they are until they get there, but his confidence is encouraging.

As outlined in a previous article, Hernangomez is being mentored by NBA legend and fellow Spaniard Pau Gasol. The two are teammates on the Spanish national team, which is expected to contend for the gold medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Gasol isn’t the only Liga ACB alum who’s helping Hernangomez with his transition.

The other helping hand just so happens to be the Knicks’ next face of the franchise.

Hernangomez and Porzingis aren’t just new Knicks teammates; they’ve played together before. The two were both members of Liga ACB club Baloncesto Sevilla from 2013 to 2015, and remained close once Porzingis departed for the NBA.

Hernangomez believes that Porzingis can help him make a smoother transition to the Association.

"“When I talked to Kristaps about the difference between the ACB and NBA, he told me the physical part is the biggest and the speed of the game,” Hernangomez said. “I try to work on my body and physical condition. I know I have to prove a lot of things — one of them is my physical ability.“For me, it’s perfect playing with Kristaps again. It will be more easy feeling part of the team. He’ll help me for sure. With Kristaps, I can feel confident on the court.’’"

That friendship, trust, and basketball camaraderie could help anchor the Knicks’ interior for years to come.

Porzingis has established himself as the Knicks’ most promising young player since Patrick Ewing. He posted marks of 14.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game in 2015-16, all of which were the highest averages by a Knicks rookie since Ewing in 1985-86.

30 years removed from Ewing’s first season, the Knicks finally found his heir apparent.

As for Hernangomez, he’s been one of the most promising players in Spain for years on end. Evidence can be found in his making the Liga ACB All-Young Players Team in both 2015 and 2016.

This past season, Hernangomez shined for Real Madrid with per 36 averages of 17.2 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks between Liga ACB and Euroleague.

Standing at 6’11” and 255 pounds with a near 7’2″ wingspan, Hernangomez has the physical gifts of a traditional center. He’s not the most explosive athlete, but he’s mobile and agile in both the half court and transition.

In terms of his upside, Hernangomez shares many similarities with former Knicks center Robin Lopez.

must read: Reasons to love the Willy Hernangomez signing

There will be early struggles in his transition to the NBA, but Porzingis’ presence should make Hernangomez’s learning curve significantly more manageable.