Denverites are starting to take notice and realize the potential that these Denver Nuggets encompass themselves in. With the emergence of Nikola Jokic, the addition of Paul Millsap, and scoring 111.7 points per game in the 2016-17 season (good for 3rd best in the NBA), The Nugs are starting to receive the most attention they’ve gotten since the George Karl years. But the most inspirational part of the Nuggets these past few seasons has perhaps been the development of the tenacious young core that Denver has been drafting.
In 2014, The Nuggets selected 11th pick Doug McDermott to Chicago for Jusuf Nurkic(16th) and Gary Harris(19th), along with taking The Joker with the 41st pick. The following year, Denver drafted former Guangdong Southern Tigers guard Emmanuel Mudiay at the 7th spot. 2015 led to selecting the prospected 3rd pick Jamal Murray at, yet again, the 7th spot, stretch 4 Juan Hernangómez with the 15th pick, and Malik Beasley at 19. Denver has been following the Golden State model and casually building their team through the NBA draft.
Juan Hernangómez, or better known by his nickname Juancho, is promptly becoming a young basketball stud and a clear fan favorite in town. There were few sound clips played in The Pepsi Center last year than hearing “JUANCHOOOOO” every time Hernangómez would drain a 3 pointer, as he hit 46 last year on 40.7% from behind the line. It was moderately common to see a fan or 2 wearing a poncho labeled “The Juancho Poncho” last season. The point is, Denver is beginning to have a new fan favorite player, much needed after Gallinari became a Clipper and Faried’s future in the Mile High remains uncertain.
6 ft 9 in Hernangómez was born in Madrid on September 28th, 1995 to two very basketball loving parents. He signed his first professional contract in 2012 when he signed with CB Estudiantes. The team moved Juan to the main team in 2015 as he proceeded to average 9.7 points and 5.7 rebounds through 34 games. This was well enough for him to receive the ACB Young Player Award. Basketball is in his and his Knicks brother Willy Hernangómez blood.
On almost any survey asking Denver Nuggets fan what the best game of the 2016-17 season was, the data would almost unanimously agree on the Golden State Warriors home game on February 13th. Not only did Denver cap off a 132-110 lead over the defending Western Conference champs, but The Nugs also tied the, at the time, NBA record for 3 pointers made in a game at 24. Six of those shots came from none other than Juan Hernangómez. Juancho also had the second highest +/- score of the night at +32 (Jokic had +33 and a 20 rebound triple double), he grabbed 10 rebounds and managed to play a staggering 43 minutes. By far Hernangómez’s best performance of the season, and he did it at the age of 21 years old and 138 days.
Coming in to fill the void of the fan favorite player and put up imposing numbers in seemingly next to no time. The Nuggets are pushing for their young core to develop and potentially challenge the Warriors, Rockets, and Spurs starting in a year or two. The acquisition of Paul Millsap gives the Nuggets a potentially top 3 front court in the entire NBA. Juan Hernangómez is going to be a large part of the Nuggets young core. The more that the young core develops, the better the Nuggets will perform on a night by night basis.