Projected role: Reserve power forward with some ability to play on the wing
Training camp outlook
With three first round picks in this summer's draft and a young roster returning in Denver, the Nuggets had planned to use one of their top-19 selections on a draft-and-stash prospect who could grow during a year spent in Europe. However, when Hernangomez made an immediate impact at Summer League and flashed a skill-set the Nuggets felt warranted an immediate arrival in Denver, the 21-year-old essentially forced the front office's hand into keeping him stateside this year.
Hernangomez shouldn't play significant minutes this season. In fact, if he winds up spending parts of the year in the rotation it likely spells disaster in Denver. Either the Nuggets suffered injuries that forced the rookie into action or the team is so far out of the playoff race that they hand over the reigns at the four to their power forward of the future. However, don't discount Hernangomez surprising everyone and playing himself into the lineup, which seems highly unlikely but isn't unheard of after what Nikola Jokic did last season.
The Nuggets' recent history in the draft under Tim Connelly combined with their track record when developing European prospects and Hernangomez's play at Summer League means the 6-foot-9 stretch four has a future in the NBA. Whether that's a starting power forward or a high usage option off the bench remains to be seen but the potential for greatness is there.
What Hernangomez has to prove this season will mostly come on the practice court. Hernangomez has to make his body stronger and adjust to more physical play. He has to maintain the aggressive nature he showed in Las Vegas this summer and impress the coaching staff in practice.
With his skill-set, Hernangomez could get minutes on a number of teams throughout the league this year, but the Nuggets have a deep rotation stocked with young players on an upward trajectory that warrant playing time. Hernangomez has more potential than any other Nuggets player currently at the four and you could make a case his ceiling extends just as high, if not higher than Jokic's.
It will be an interesting season for Hernangomez who's playing time likely depends on the failures in the Nuggets starting and reserve frontcourts. But keep an eye out for what he does in the spot minutes he occasionally receives this year. It's those moments that will be remembered come next season when he takes on a larger role.