Although it may be early April, it is never too early to start giving in-depth analysis on the NBA Draft prospects here at SB Nation.
For the Charlotte Hornets, we expect the team to land somewhere between the eleventh and fourteenth overall selection. Of course, this has been the area in the draft of which the Hornets have selected in for the third year in a row. Although they have come away in landing two excellent talents in Miles Bridges and Malik Monk, being in this murky area of the draft lottery is almost always unamusing.
Luckily, there is one player who will most likely remain on the board whenever the Hornets end up selecting. That player is Maryland Terrapin frontcourt forward/center, Bruno Fernando.
The Angolan big man comes with the physical stature that is reminiscent of the center-dominated days of the 1990s NBA. Coming in at 6’10”, 240 pounds, Fernando’s physique is by far the most superior for a true big man coming into the draft, excluding the uncanny nature of one Zion Williamson. Using this hefty mold to his advantage Fernando has crafted his game to one that is lethal in almost every asset.
Offensively speaking, there are some hopes of optimism and growth. He is a tenacious runner down the court and is able to create easy baskets for himself in the transition game. With the Hornets underrated multitude of ball handlers, this will no doubt unlock a new area of scoring for the team. Charlotte ranked eighteenth in the NBA in transition points per game, and this number will undoubtedly rise with the addition of a rim-runner like Fernando on the roster.
The other aspect of his offense is his pick and roll game. Similar to when we covered Texas A&M and now Boston Celtics center Robert Williams, Fernando’s scoring is mostly generated through setting tough screens. Using his aforementioned size, he has done an excellent job in sculpting his way into creating angles for himself in the paint. Whether that be a simple layup attempt or a thunderous alley-oop pass, this facet of the game has been one of sheer dominance.
But his offense is not where Fernando shines the most. It is his psychological motor and defense that gives Hornets fans the most excitement heading into NBA draft coverage.
For the Terrapins, Fernando has been the team’s defensive anchor for the past two seasons. He was able to collapse driving opponents cutting inside and alter their shot attempts with great effort. This helped mold his team into one of the best inside defensive units in the Big Ten, earning top-two marks in defensive rebounds and blocks per game.
Fernando’s 7’4” wingspan allows him to alter incoming shots at an impressive rate. Although his blocking numbers are not as high as you would expect, averaging a career 1.6 swats per contest, his defensive IQ has helped his interior presence. This lack of shot-blocking may very well be a result of his timid game in the paint, as he hasn’t allowed himself to be too over-aggressive rejecting the basketball. This, of course, will lead him to get pump-faked by the opponent almost every time.
With Bleacher Report as well as a few of our own ATH fans increasingly growing attraction for Fernando in Charlotte, there is certainly support behind this potential happening.
This hype is because of Fernando’s possible role on the team: becoming the future big man.
If there is one position that the Hornets desperately need to find a young solution for, it is the center position. Out of all the four current centers on the team, none of them provide the upside that Fernando brings day one. Cody Zeller, the Hornets’ prominent starting five is simply too injury prone to be considered a long-term investment, even with his $12 contract.
Frank Kaminsky has shown signs of his old Wisconsin Badger self, but his efficiency is still the biggest question mark to his game. Bismack Biyombo is undersized for the five at 6’8” and his inability to catch the ball in the post practically eliminates his offensive development. Finally, Willy Hernangomez has the most offensive potential out of the team’s centers, but defense is still the biggest hole for him.
What the Hornets would get in Fernando is a physical, and more importantly consistent, player at the frontcourt position. We have seen Hornets bigs develop their offensive repertoire, as seen by Zellers’ three-point shooting earlier this year. At 20 years old, Fernando has more than enough time to develop some sort of shooting or post game.
But, and most importantly, the Hornets would get the athletic rim protector that they have been searching for since the Al Jefferson days. Fernando will instantly help the team out in the paint, providing that additional support for players on the perimeter. Similar to what former Hornets center Dwight Howard did, this shot-altering ability from the five allows the team to be more physical and tighter defending the perimeter, as they know they have someone who will protect the paint.
If the Hornets look to reshape their identity under James Borrego, it needs to start on the defensive end. With a man like Fernando roaming the interior, things would look to be heading towards that new philosophy.
If he can be, as SI’s Jeremy Woo put it, a “Diet Clint Capela”, should help the Hornets dramatically in the long-run.
To end it off, I went ahead and made a jersey swap of Fernando in the Queen City.