The Atlanta Hawks, via a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers, selected Maryland’s Bruno Fernando with the 34th overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft Thursday night, reuniting multiple Terps in the process.
His selection opens the next chapter in a basketball journey that began in Angola over a decade ago. Fernando also becomes the third Terp selected in the last two drafts, joining Kevin Huerter and Justin Jackson last season. He’ll add another piece to a building Hawks team, which also has former Terps Huerter and Alex Len on the roster.
The 6’10, 250-pounder immediately profiles as a viable option at the backup center position in Atlanta. But the Hawks are getting a lot more in the Terps’ big man.
What they're getting
A 2018-19 finalist for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award, given to the best center in college basketball, Fernando took as large a leap from his freshman to sophomore year as almost any player in the NCAA. He tested the process after his freshman year, but returned and was a consistent double-double, averaging 13.6 points and 10.3 rebounds on the year as Maryland came just a basket away from the Sweet 16.
With all the physical tools of an NBA-ready big, Fernando figures to make his most immediate impact as a high-volume rebounder and rim-runner off the bench. Think Montrezl Harrell and Clint Capela. The center had a top-25 defensive rebound rate in college basketball last season, securing 27.4 percent of all possible defensive rebounds, per KenPom, good for No. 24 in the nation. He also displayed solid post footwork in college and an improving feel for the game.
In the long run, Atlanta is getting a big who hopes to add to his offensive game and continue to grow his defensive IQ. Facing a double team in every game of the season, Fernando was forced to grow as a playmaker, to the point where much of Maryland’s offense last season was predicated on getting Fernando touches to see what opened up.
He reportedly displayed his range well in the workout process — his range was on display in the background of media availabilities, but he only went 3-of-10 on the season. It’s worth noting some of the best three-point shooting centers in the league shot much worse in college. If he can extend his range and shoot a respectable clip at the next level, it adds another dimension to a player that’s extremely efficient around the rim.
How he fits
In Atlanta, Fernando will be coming into a situation where he can make an impact from day one, but he won’t be called upon to produce as much of the offense as he did at Maryland. The Hawks are getting a hard-working big who’s willing to take coaching and continuing to improving his game.
His switchability, or lack thereof, came up during the pre-draft process, and may have contributed to his slide to the second round. He finished his sophomore season with 1.9 blocks per game, but at times could get beat by quicker players. Fernando needs to improve his defense in space, or he’ll risk being pick-and-rolled into oblivion. There was also a concern about his 2.8 turnovers per game, but those should decrease without the spotlight on him in the post. As he adjusts to the level of play, his playmaking could make him a weapon.
After selecting Trae Young with the No. 5 pick in the 2018 draft, pairing him with Huerter and John Collins, the Hawks added De’Andre Hunter with the No. 4 overall pick and Cam Reddish at No. 10 earlier in the night. Dewayne Dedmon started at the five in 2018-19, but is an unrestricted free agent this offseason. However, the Hawks still have Miles Plumlee and Len under contract for another year. Whether or not the Hawks retain Dedmon, Fernando should have ample opportunity to compete for playing time next season. Last year, Huerter did just that and worked his way onto the starting five.
But the best person to summarize what Bruno Fernando brings to any team is Bruno Fernando.
“At the end of the day, I’m not somebody that’s trying to go out there and score 30 points,” Fernando told Testudo Times at the 2019 NCAA Tournament. “I know I can, but I’m trying to impact winning. I know that by doing the things I’m doing, I’m going to impact winning. ... When you’re doing something well, and people aren’t able to stop it, why get away from that and try to do something else?”