Evaluating Kevin Huerter and Bruno Fernando

May 4, 2018

by Alan Lu

I decided to take the time to watch Maryland’s sophomore swingman, Kevin Huerter, as well as 6-10 freshman center Bruno Fernando, as they will be joining sophomore combo forward Justin Jackson at participating at the NBA Draft Combine later this month.  I had scouted Jackson extensively before, so I wanted to get a better feel for Huerter and Fernando’s games.  With thanks to YouTube via Ev Fed, I was able to watch a December 1st, 2017 game between Maryland and Purdue.  Here are my thoughts on how Huerter and Fernando both played in this contest, as well as how their skills may translate to the NBA.

Kevin Huerter showed off solid offensive skills, and he also showed a knack for crashing the glass to get rebounds for his team.  While he struggled with his position defense at times, he would look to aggressively defend his man, as he also was able to make some good plays on the other end of the floor.  Huerter did a very good job of knocking down jumpers to space the floor for his team.  He excelled at running off screens to knock down threes, and he would make quick spot-up threes off the catch as he would take advantage of any space defenders would give him to make shots. 

He also did a good job of scoring on aggressive drives to the hoop.  Huerter is a crafty scorer that can often draw fouls upon the opposition, and he also used an overhead ball fake to score on a fast break layup another time.  Also, he managed to draw a shooting foul after making a nice backdoor cut to the basket.

Also, he showed off adequate playmaking skills in this game.  He is a tall, skilled point forward that handles the ball well, and he has good court vision, as he can kick the ball out to shooters and find teammates on cuts to set up scores for them.  He also will sometimes push the ball up the floor off of defensive rebounds.  But he did end up committing several turnovers, as he threw a couple of inaccurate passes in which one was dropped by a teammate while another ended up being intercepted.  On a separate play, he had a ball poked away from him while dribbling the ball to lose it to an opponent.

He also was able to chip in to get his fair share of boards on both ends of the floor.  Huerter was able to chase several balls down to get defensive rebounds, and he also tipped a ball to a teammate to help his team get an offensive board another time.  He will actively look to crash the offensive glass, as he will look to get his team rebounds.  He also showed average at best defensive skills.  For the positives, Huerter was able to get back on defense as he managed to knock a ball off of an opponent’s leg to help his team force a turnover.  Even though he will bite on pump fakes, he will look to stay with the play, as he would recover to contest jumpers to force misses.

On the other hand, he had trouble fighting through screens, and he tended to be late on his rotations afterwards, as this would lead his team to allow three-point baskets.  Also, he would tend to commit reach-in fouls due to over-aggressiveness.  Another time, he struggled to stay in front of his man when defending a mid-range shot off the dribble, which led his team to give up the basket to the opposition.

In general, Kevin Huerter is a skilled basketball player that has solid offensive skills, and he could project well into a complementary role in the NBA as a player that can shoot and facilitate the basketball.  He is also an above average athlete that showed a decent ability to create his own shot off the dribble.  Whether if he can continue to do that consistently at the next level may remain to be seen, but he did a good job of scoring the basketball in this game against Purdue.  He will need to improve his position defense, but he will compete on that end of the floor.  Right now, he could project to go in the late first to the second round in the 2018 NBA Draft, and a good combine showing could improve his chances to get selected in the first round this year.

Maryland’s 6-10 freshman center, Bruno Fernando was also invited to participate at the NBA Draft Combine later this month, so I decided to take another look at his skills to get a better feel for his game.  Against Purdue, he showed off impressive athletic abilities, as well as a surprisingly good ability to score off the dribble, and Fernando can really finish plays above the rim.  He is a player that could project to be an energetic defensive specialist at the next level, and he may have considerable upside, but he will still need to improve his position defense and expand upon his skill set offensively.

Fernando showed a good ability to score on quick drives to the basket.  He has a quick first initial step to the hoop, and while his footwork at times looked a bit awkward, Fernando was effective at scoring and drawing free throws on strong moves to the hoop.  He managed to score off the back iron after throwing it up off of a high post drive once, and he also used a spin move to score high off the glass while drawing an extra free throw another time.  Plus, he showed a very good ability to score on hustle plays.  Fernando drove to the hoop to throw down a thunderous dunk on the break to score in transition, and he also caught a quick pass off of a roll to the rim to score on a powerful jam on a separate possession.

He also showed off decent low post scoring skills.  Fernando can draw fouls on strong moves to the basket, as he managed to do so once on a sweeping hook shot, and he also drew a shooting foul on a dunk attempt after being left open around the basket.  But sometimes, Fernando will look to take contested shots, which can lead to misses.  He tried to dunk hard over an opponent, but that led him to miss the shot hard off the back iron.  He also received the ball on a half roll to the rim as he posted up, but after using a spin move and a pivot move, he later missed on a contested jump hook.

Also, he will need to work on his jump shot.  It was an encouraging sign that he would look to take jumpers, but Fernando will need to work on making shots from longer distances.  He missed an open three off the catch, and he also missed a pull-up, long two another time after appearing looking to pass at first on a separate play.

Fernando also played unselfishly, as he would look to make the extra pass to set up scoring chances, and he also would set good on-ball screens to help get his teammates open shots and driving lanes on offense.  But sometimes, he had trouble protecting the basketball, as he had a ball poked away when trying to post up after getting the ball on a roll to lose it to an opponent once.  On a separate play, he was later called for setting a moving screen.

He also did a fairly good job of rebounding the basketball.  He would usually leap up to get boards on both ends of the floor, and he also managed to get other rebounds off of tap outs.  But sometimes he would be unable to get balls in his area as he was also matched against the taller Isaac Haas at times, as this led him to commit a foul once, and to allow a score another time.

In addition, he showed off average at best defensive skills.  For the positives, Fernando managed to tip an inbounds pass to himself to get a steal, as it led him to eventually score on a thunderous fast break dunk early in the second half.  He also would rotate on drives to alter shots to force misses, and he also managed to force some misses when defending in the post.

However, he generally had trouble defending the taller and stronger Isaac Haas in the post in this game.  He would sometimes get beat on spin moves to allow baskets, and other times he would be out of position when defending down low.  Also, sometimes he wouldn’t quite communicate to his teammates where to rotate on screens, as his team would allow three-point baskets.  Other times, he would have trouble defending opponents in transition, which would his team to allow baskets.

In summary, Bruno Fernando is an athletic, energetic big man that has some promising offensive skills, and he also is a good rebounder that generally shows a good motor when he is out on the court.  He will still need to refine his offensive skills and improve his position defense, but it’s clear he may possess plenty of upside for the next level.  He’s a gifted athlete that could create off the dribble, and he is an active rebounder and interior defender that can make plays above the rim. 

Right now, he could be an intriguing project player for teams to take in the second round, and it’s conceivable that a team may consider taking him in the first round.  It’s not certain if Fernando could help an NBA team right away, but he is a talented player, and in the right scenario if he’s allowed to develop his skills and hone his game, he could end up being a solid role player in the mold of a Marcin Gortat type of big man in the league.

Other Notes:

I wasn’t scouting Maryland’s 6-7 sophomore combo forward, Justin Jackson quite as much as the other two players on his team in this game, for I had already seen him in previous matches.  I did know that he did not shoot the ball very well against Purdue, but he did do a good job of rebounding and passing the basketball against them.

Jackson generally struggled with his jump shot, and he also missed a jump hook in the post, but he showed an adequate ability to draw free throws on strong drives to the basket, as he can take his man off the dribble when looking to score from the high post.  He also managed to score on a put back late in the game to make his lone field goal, as he was able to make a solid hustle play that time.

He also passed the ball well, as he would find the open to set up scores for his teammates, and he can kick the ball to shooters off the dribble.  He also managed to successfully bring the ball up once off of a defensive rebound.  Plus, Jackson sets good on-ball screens, as he can get his teammates open for jump shots.  He did drop an off-target but perhaps catchable pass thrown by a teammate that went to the opposition, and he committed his lone turnover another time when he committed a charging foul when looking to post up late in this contest.

Plus, he did a very good job of rebounding the basketball, and he would often tip balls to himself to get rebounds on both ends of the floor.  Jackson showed a knack for outworking his opponents on the glass, as he excelled at collecting boards to help his team.  Also, he generally played good defense.  Jackson would play passing lanes, as he would managed to deflect a pass, and he would solid rotations to get opponents to miss shots off the dribble as well as to commit passing turnovers.  He also would contest jumpers to force misses, and he managed to fight hard through a screen once to get an opponent to miss on a three-point shot.

But sometimes, he had trouble defending three-point shots, as he would occasionally be late on his rotations.  He also can occasionally get beat off the dribble, which would cause his team to allow scores around the basket.  In summary, it was not the best game for Justin Jackson, but he otherwise played well despite not excelling as a shooter or scorer in this game.  Though his team lost to Purdue, he did a good job of making good passes, and he also showed good rebounding and defensive skills when he was on the court.  He ended up missing the second half of the season due to injury, but Jackson could profile into a 3 and D type of role at the next level, as he could end up being a good value pick for an NBA team in the second round in this year’s draft. 

Also, I was able to watch Purdue’s senior center Isaac Haas play, and in this game, he showed off solid low post scoring skills, as he showed off great strength, as well as good footwork and shooting touch to consistently score on the block.  He also would consistently set good screens for his team on offense, as this would allow his teammates to get open.

Another player that stood out was Purdue’s senior guard, Dakota Mathias.  He shot the ball very well in this game, especially early on, and he showed a knack for running off screens to make quick spot-up threes off the catch.  He did a very good job of moving off the ball, and he excelled at shooting on the move.  He also dribbled and pivoted to score on a fadeaway, pull-up, mid-range jumper another time, as he shot the ball really well against Maryland.  While Mathias has not gained much draft buzz, he is a sharpshooter that could be a solid addition to a team’s summer league roster, as his ability to knock down shots could potentially help him land a roster spot in the NBA.

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