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Through the first week of the NBA season, the Minnesota Timberwolves have gotten almost no production out of Juancho Hernangomez.
During the offseason, the Minnesota Timberwolves showed us all how much they value Juan Hernangómez by signing the Spaniard to a three-year, $21 million contract.
With that type of money, one would assume they would trust Juancho to be a solid contributor to winning basketball, and possibly start and finish games at power forward, a notable weak spot for the team.
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Some people even had the audacity to zero in on Hernangómez during the offseason as the potential breakout candidate for the Timberwolves this season.
If you were one of those eager fans, you would be wildly disappointed by how Juancho has performed over the first three games as he’s been completely invisible on both ends of the court.
In three games, Juancho is playing only 10 minutes per contest, averaging just two points and three rebounds per game while making only three shots total: one three, a layup, and a free throw — all coming in the Wolves’ loss to the Lakers.
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In just 30 minutes on the court, Hernangómez is only ahead of Ed Davis and fellow ghost Jake Layman with a net rating of -33.8, and is second-to-last on the team behind Jarred Vanderbilt with a true shooting percentage of 22.5. These are truly abysmal numbers for a 6-foot-9 power forward who has shown the ability to stroke it from three throughout his career.
The scariest thing about his substandard start to the season is that with the wrist injury to Karl-Anthony Towns, Juancho’s role will have to increase and he will have to step up and vastly improve if the Timberwolves are going to stay afloat without their superstar.
After the Wolves questionably waived Rondae Hollis-Jefferson before the season began, the burden to fill minutes at the power forward position falls to Juancho, Layman, Davis, and Vanderbilt, arguably the four members of the Timberwolves who have had the worst starts to the season.
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Hernangómez will, at the very least, have to improve his defense with Towns out and Naz Reid holding down the center spot in his absence.
His one true asset as a power forward is the way he can stretch the floor. If he’s not hitting threes, Juancho has little-to-no value on the court. He’s a career 35.6 percent 3-point shooter and shot 42 percent from deep in 14 games in Minnesota last season.
The good news for Wolves fans is that this is an extremely small sample size that we are judging him on. Remember, he’s only played 30 total minutes all season. That’s essentially one game’s worth of starter’s minutes, and, as it turns out, basketball players have bad games all the time.
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His playing time is about to increase, and with more volume perhaps he can shoot himself out of his early-season slump and be more connected with the team on offense and defense. Additionally, Hernangómez had his best game in the most recent loss to the Lakers.
Juancho will have to snap out of it sooner rather than later as the Wolves play the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night, then go home to face the newly rejuvenated yet winless Washington Wizards before a home-and-away series with the Denver Nuggets. Then, the Wolves head to Portland to play the Trail Blazers.
NEXT: Wolves Power Rankings Roundup: Week Two
The schedule will be difficult, but if Juancho wants to be taken seriously this season and live up to his contract, he needs to snap out of his first-week trance and start playing some real basketball.
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Several Minnesota Timberwolves players are in position to have a breakout season in 2020-21, but perhaps none more than Juancho Hernangomez.
Regular-season NBA action returns in just two weeks. For Minnesota Timberwolves fans it will be the first time for them to see their team in action since March.
It’s an exciting time for Wolves fans, but the most exciting part may be the interesting assortment of talent populating the roster. There are several players who could be poised to have breakout seasons in Minnesota.
There are a half-dozen young, talented, and largely unproven players who fit that description — but perhaps none more than Juan Hernangomez.
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Setting aside non-breakout candidates for the Minnesota Timberwolves
First, let’s go through and set a few players aside who won’t be considered candidates to be named the Wolves’ breakout player this season.
Stars like Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell are not candidates for a breakout season — hence, the “star” designation. Unless Russell all of a sudden becomes Steph Curry, and Towns is the second coming of Wilt Chamberlain with a 3-point shot, neither will be the breakout player this year for the Timberwolves.
Similarly, the veterans on the team are out of the running for breakout player because we already know who they are and what they bring to the table. Sorry, Ricky Rubio and Ed Davis, but you had your chance. No breakouts for either veteran in Year 10 and Year 11, respectively.
Any rookies on the roster will not be considered as well. Players have to have done something in the league in order to breakout and defy previous expectations. Anthony Edwards and Jaden McDaniels will have to wait their turn.
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Guys who will likely play very sparingly — if they make the active roster — won’t be in the running to be Minnesota’s breakout candidate. So Jaylen Nowell, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Tyler Cook will hopefully have to wait until next year.
Also, let’s leave Malik Beasley out of the conversation for a few reasons. First, he kind of already broke out last season after he was traded to Minnesota. In 14 games with the Wolves last year Beasley went nuts scoring 20.7 points per game while shooting 42.6 percent from three.
Secondly, we don’t really know yet if he’s going to be suspended, or if anything else will happen to him this year stemming from his tumultuous offseason.
Possible breakout candidates for the Minnesota Timberwolves
This leaves us with six candidates for a breakout season: Jarrett Culver, Josh Okogie, Jake Layman, Hernangomez, Naz Reid, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
From this list Culver, Okogie, and Hollis-Jefferson, and to some extent, Layman, are vying for playing time at the suddenly crowded wing spot.
Limited playing time, especially depending on how head coach Ryan Saunders uses top pick Anthony Edwards, will likely limit the breakout possibilities. Each may have the best years of their careers, but unless one breaks free and gets nearly 30 minutes per game, it’s tough to see any of the young wings taking a huge leap forward.
Playing time factors into why Reid won’t breakout as well. He averaged 9.0 points and 4.1 rebounds last year while playing 16.5 minutes per game. Most of his production, including 11 starts, came while Towns was on the bench with injuries. With Towns back in the fold this year, Reid will be relegated to bench duty, and likely see fewer minutes as well as opportunities to impact the game.
This leaves us with the one player on the Wolves roster who is primed for a breakout season: Juancho Hernangomez.
Why Junacho Hernangomez is the Minnesota Timberwolves’ ideal breakout candidate
Juancho will likely start at the power forward position to begin the season. Sharing the frontcourt with Towns, at least offensively, will be a boon for Hernangomez’s production. After he was traded to Minnesota, the former No. 15 pick played out of his mind.
In 14 games, the Spaniard averaged 12.9 points and 7.3 rebounds per game while quietly hitting 42 percent of his threes. This came while playing just over 29 minutes per game, albeit mostly without Towns. His offensive rating of 112.9 was second-best on the team, just behind Towns.
Looking at those stats quickly and you might think his shooting is bound to regress substantially this season, but his career 3-point shooting percentage is 35.9. If he even splits the difference and shoots 39 percent from three, that’s a huge threat for a 6-foot-9 power forward to be able to stretch the court.
His minutes may be reduced with the return of Towns and the addition of Ed Davis, but the Wolves are still thin in the frontcourt. Layman might see some time at power forward, and Saunders could throw Hollis-Jefferson and Vanderbilt in the 4-spot if they make the roster. Other than those weird iterations of the lineup, it’s basically Towns, Hernangomez, Reid, and Davis sharing frontcourt minutes.
The one thing that can stunt his breakout this year is his poor defense. Last year, Hernangomez had the second-worst defensive rating on the Timberwolves at 118.9, just ahead of trade comrade Malik Beasley. If he truly wants to have a breakout season, the defense needs to greatly improve.
NEXT: What will Anthony Edwards’ role be with the Wolves?
If he can improve even a little bit on the defensive end and his offense continues to shine, Juan Hernangomez is the prime candidate to be Minnesota’s breakout player this season.