2021-22 Pelicans Season in Review: Willy Hernangomez

Age: 27

NBA experience: Six seasons (two with Pelicans)

Games played/games started: 50/8

Key stats: 9.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 52.0 FG percentage

Willy Hernangomez 2021-22 Pelicans Season Overview

With Willy Hernangomez essentially filling the role of third center prior to the February trade deadline, other NBA teams dialed up New Orleans, wondering about the backup’s availability. Despite Hernangomez’s minimal on-court impact at the time, the Pelicans were not interested in making a deal.

“We refused to trade him,” a smiling Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin said April 29. “Because of what he gives the group (from a chemistry and locker-room standpoint).”

Hernangomez has been one of New Orleans’ most beloved teammates since he first set foot in the Crescent City two years ago. He’s also been a player the club can most count on in a pinch, even if he’s been idling on the bench for an extended period. For instance, Hernangomez piled up 29 points and 10 rebounds at Philadelphia on Jan. 25, as New Orleans nearly pulled off a road win despite being severely undermanned. It was Hernangomez’s first game action in over three weeks. Down the home stretch of the regular season, when the Pelicans cemented a play-in tournament spot, he was a productive force, notching double-figure points in 10 of his final 17 appearances, even though he only sporadically topped 20-plus minutes of playing time.

“My season personally I think was my best career season so far,” Hernangomez said April 29. “I think I proved that I can play in this league. Obviously I would’ve loved to play more minutes. I think I deserve to be playing every game. But at the end of the day, I’m a team guy. Whatever the team needs to win, I will take it.”

Hernangomez registered nine double-doubles and averaged a double-double over his eight starts (13.6 ppg, 10.3 rpg). He led New Orleans in rebounds per 36 minutes (14.5) and was fourth in points per 36 minutes (19.4), illustrating how effective he was regardless of how long he was on the court. The native of Spain also helped the Pelicans’ bench drastically improve during the second half of the season, a pivotal factor in New Orleans reaching the playoffs for the first time in four seasons.

“Amazing,” Hernangomez said of the Pelicans starting 1-12 but then reaching the postseason. “It was an incredible year. From the beginning – (which was) so hard, so tough – it was something amazing to be in the playoffs. New Orleans, the city was unbelievable. My first playoffs. It was a season I’m going to remember for my (lifetime).”

Highlights: Willy Hernangomez 2021-22 Pelicans Season Recap

Willy Hernangomez By the Numbers

8: Rank among all NBA players (minimum 50 games) in rebounds per minute for Hernangomez. He averaged 14.5 boards per 36 minutes, trailing only Andre Drummond, Rudy Gobert, Clint Capela, Hassan Whiteside, JaVale McGee, Omar Yurtseven and Nikola Jokic.

2: Rank among all NBA players (minimum 50 games) in offensive rebounds per minute for Hernangomez, who averaged 6.1 O-boards per 36 minutes. Memphis center Steven Adams (6.3) was the only player ahead of him in the category.

2: Times Hernangomez finished with a double-double this season despite receiving 15:38 or less of playing time. He had 17 points and 10 rebounds at Atlanta on March 20 in only 14:37.

Willy Hernangomez’s Three Most Notable Games

No. 1: March 20, New Orleans 117, Atlanta 112

The Pelicans notched a key road victory behind stellar work off the bench by Hernangomez (17 points, 10 rebounds) and Jose Alvarado (15 points, three steals). Hernangomez pulled down seven offensive boards, tied for his third-highest tally of the season.

No. 2: April 7, New Orleans 127, Portland 94

In typical Hernangomez fashion, the center produced a double-double in the second half alone, with 11 points and 13 rebounds, including five caroms at the offensive end. He totaled 17 points and 14 boards as the Pelicans took a step toward sealing the West’s No. 9 seed.

No. 3: Jan. 25, Philadelphia 117, New Orleans 107

In Pelicans.com’s entire review series for 2021-22, this is the only noteworthy individual performance listed that occurred in a defeat, but Hernangomez’s 29-point, 10-rebound game vs. the 76ers and Joel Embiid deserved mention. The 29 points were a career high.

From the 12

Each player review features a poll or question directed to the New Orleans fan base. For Hernangomez, the poll question was: What was the most valuable contribution made by him in 2021-22? His reliability was the runaway winner (66 percent), followed by rebounding (29 percent) and scoring (6 percent). Many of the comments under the poll were not related to on-court production, including:

@Sabe376: His ability to act as a catalyst to bring the group together. People talk about glue guys on the court. My perception was Willy was the glue guy off the court even before CJ arrived.

@Pubs2Dubs: His joy that he brought his teammates!

@ElCoco89315354: Vibes.

@CadeJosephh: Option 4… morale booster!