2020-21 Pelicans Season in Review: Willy Hernangomez

Willy Hernangómez Season Recap 2020-21

Recapping New Orleans Pelicans center Willy Hernangómez's 2020-21 NBA Season.

  • Age 27
  • Experience Five seasons (one with Pelicans)
  • Games Played/Games Started 47/12

He may have been an afterthought free-agent signing during the NBA’s rapid-fire 2020 offseason, but as New Orleans tried to remain in the Western Conference play-in race this spring, Hernangomez was a vital cog, posting frequent double-doubles. A common DNP in December and January – he only appeared in three of the team’s first 18 games – the native of Spain ended up starting 10 of the Pelicans’ final 12 games, illustrating how dramatically his role shifted. Although New Orleans (31-41) fell a few games shy of qualifying for the NBA’s new postseason format, Hernangomez established career highs in multiple categories, including rebounding average and shooting percentage. He filled in admirably and then some for the injured Steven Adams and as a midseason second-stringer at center.

“It was a great season for me personally,” Hernangomez said May 17. “Obviously I would love to keep playing games (in the postseason), but I took this as an opportunity to be ready and to play, so I can be in this league for a long time. I tried to work hard every day, bring the energy and share my experience with my teammates every day, especially the young guys. And learn as much as I could from the older guys and my coaches. I think it was great. I’m really happy for the year. I grew a lot and am a way better player and person.”

    Willy Hernangómez Key Stats from 2020-21 NBA Season

  • PTS Per Game 7.8
  • REB Per Game 7.1
  • Field Goal % 56.3

A first-team NBA All-Rookie selection in 2016-17 with New York, in the years since Hernangomez had not always gotten an opportunity to contribute, often out of the rotation with Charlotte. It looked like he again might spent much of the winter waiting for a chance to play in the Crescent City, but he delivered 13 points and 11 rebounds Feb. 1 vs. Sacramento, the first time he was moved into the rotation. He wrapped up his initial season with the Pelicans by averaging a double-double in eight May appearances, putting up 12.3 points and 10.5 rebounds.

A close friend of Adams, Hernangomez said during his mid-May exit interview that he was partly trying to replicate some of what the New Zealand native brings to a team.

“I told him this personally, since my rookie year, I always wanted to be like Steven Adams,” Hernangomez said. “A guy who knows his role, is a beast on the boards, and everybody is scared to play against him – one of the strongest guys in the league. I tried to be a Steven Adams Jr., to play like him and be like him.”

One of his best “Adams impersonations” occurred during his 12 starts – Hernangomez averaged 11.5 points and 10.8 rebounds.

Willy Hernangómez | By The Numbers

  • 50.0

    Shooting percentage for Hernangomez from 3-10 feet (per Basketball Reference), a career high and evidence of his excellence on hook shots and floaters. He also took 64 percent of his field goal tries from 0-3 feet, the largest chunk of point-blank attempts for him as a pro.

  • 15

    Games of double-digit rebounds for Hernangomez, who snared a season-best 17 boards vs. Portland on Feb. 17 and collected 16 at Charlotte on May 9. In all eight instances in which he logged at least 26 minutes, he finished with 10-plus rebounds.

  • 4

    Active NBA players born in Spain who played in 2020-21. That list includes Hernangomez, his brother Juan Hernangomez (Minnesota), Marc Gasol (Lakers) and Ricky Rubio (Minnesota). Gasol’s brother Pau is Spain’s all-time leading NBA scorer, with 20,894 career points.

Willy Hernangómez Gallery

Photos: Willy Hernangómez Season in Review | 2020-2021 Pelicans

Willy Hernangómez | Most Notable Games from 2020-21 NBA Season

  • #1, May 1, New Orleans 140, Minnesota 136 (OT)

    The most important basket Hernangomez scored all season occurred at the end of regulation, when his putback tied the game and forced an extra period in Target Center. In a virtual must-win situation for New Orleans, Hernangomez came through with 12 points and 12 rebounds.

  • #2, April 4, New Orleans 122, Houston 115

    Efficient offense was a staple of Hernangomez’s game all season, but this was the peak. He did not miss a shot in seven attempts from the field, leading New Orleans’ bench with 15 points. He also grabbed 12 rebounds. The Pelicans rallied from a fourth-quarter deficit to win in Texas.

  • #3, April 22, New Orleans 135, Orlando 100

    Hernangomez only needed 17:00 to put up this gaudy stat line: 18 points, 12 rebounds, 7/9 shooting from the field and 4/4 accuracy at the foul line. The Pelicans posted a much-needed road victory on the heels of two brutal endings in overtime losses at Washington and New York.