A Transition to More Small Forward Could be in the Cards for Hernangomez

One thing to keep an eye on in the Nuggets’ upcoming summer league games: Juancho Hernangomez’s position. If the team wants to get an early look at how well he’d play at small forward, the games in Las Vegas would be the perfect place to start.

The reason? Depth at small forward. The Nuggets will need it. And, for Hernangomez, it would release him from a stable of power forwards on the team, giving him a chance to carve out more playing time.

Primarily a power forward at 6-foot-9, 230 pounds, Hernangomez didn’t play small forward much as a rookie last season, only four times in 62 games played according to Hoopsstats.com. But he has the skill set to survive. Particularly offensively, where he scored from the rim to the arc, shooting 45 percent from the field and 40.1 percent from the 3-point line.

“The one luxury we do have is with his ability to handle the basketball and shoot the basketball you can do a lot of different things with that,” Nuggets summer league coach Micah Nori said.

Hernangomez and the coaching staff are working to make him just as versatile defensively.

“Juancho is a 3-4 combo, and I think the thing that was probably new for him in the NBA was he was by himself…and switched onto a James Harden or get switched onto a Russell Westbrook. Those guys are next level athletes,” Nori said. “And to try to defensively stay in front of all of them, and be able to guard threes and guard fours, continue to make the right play. Everything is going to position-less basketball, and I think he is the perfect individual for that type of system.”

Hernangomez will be a focal point on the Nuggets summer league team, along with shooting guard Malik Beasley. There are specific sets already designed to get Hernangomez shots, and part of what Nuggets coaches want to see is how well he operates as a focal point of the offense. It’s a good bet he’ll get ample time at small forward in the midst of it all.

Asked what he wants to improve on, Hernangomez says “everything.”

“I try to be a more consistent shooter, I try to help my team, improve my defense,” he said. “These are my goals for summer league. I like working out. I like practicing and becoming a more complete player.”

Bropleh’s Opportunity. Whenever the Nuggets needed a player to come in and help fill out teams for their open gym games in the last few years, they could always count Thomas Bropleh. And now, through his work with the Nuggets in the past and his improvement as a player overall, the George Washington High product has a spot on the summer league team.

“For someone who has never played summer league officially with us, Tommy has more baskets in this gym than any human being alive,” said Nuggets summer league coach Micah Nori, smiling. “He just comes in and does whatever is asked, plays whatever position. I’m glad he’s getting the opportunity to come with us to Vegas and hopefully we’ll get him some minutes down there.”

Nori stressed Bropleh’s spot on the team was earned through hard work. But it is also a nod toward Bropleh’s willingness to do whatever it took to be in the gym.

“You kind of reward a guy that every time we’ve needed someone to come in and play…no matter where he is he’d drop everything and come and play,” Nori said. “So he’s earned that right to be there, and it’s a bit of a reward. We’re happy to do that for him.”

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