Minnesota Timberwolves: Juan Hernangomez is poised for breakout season

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - FEBRUARY 12: Juan Hernangomez #41 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - FEBRUARY 12: Juan Hernangomez #41 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images) /

Several Minnesota Timberwolves players are in position to have a breakout season in 2020-21, but perhaps none more than Juancho Hernangomez.

Regular-season NBA action returns in just two weeks. For Minnesota Timberwolves fans it will be the first time for them to see their team in action since March.

It’s an exciting time for Wolves fans, but the most exciting part may be the interesting assortment of talent populating the roster. There are several players who could be poised to have breakout seasons in Minnesota.

There are a half-dozen young, talented, and largely unproven players who fit that description — but perhaps none more than Juan Hernangomez.

Setting aside non-breakout candidates for the Minnesota Timberwolves

First, let’s go through and set a few players aside who won’t be considered candidates to be named the Wolves’ breakout player this season.

Stars like Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell are not candidates for a breakout season — hence, the “star” designation. Unless Russell all of a sudden becomes Steph Curry, and Towns is the second coming of Wilt Chamberlain with a 3-point shot, neither will be the breakout player this year for the Timberwolves.

Similarly, the veterans on the team are out of the running for breakout player because we already know who they are and what they bring to the table. Sorry, Ricky Rubio and Ed Davis, but you had your chance. No breakouts for either veteran in Year 10 and Year 11, respectively.

Any rookies on the roster will not be considered as well. Players have to have done something in the league in order to breakout and defy previous expectations. Anthony Edwards and Jaden McDaniels will have to wait their turn.

Guys who will likely play very sparingly — if they make the active roster — won’t be in the running to be Minnesota’s breakout candidate. So Jaylen Nowell, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Tyler Cook will hopefully have to wait until next year.

Also, let’s leave Malik Beasley out of the conversation for a few reasons. First, he kind of already broke out last season after he was traded to Minnesota. In 14 games with the Wolves last year Beasley went nuts scoring 20.7 points per game while shooting 42.6 percent from three.

Secondly, we don’t really know yet if he’s going to be suspended, or if anything else will happen to him this year stemming from his tumultuous offseason.

Possible breakout candidates for the Minnesota Timberwolves

This leaves us with six candidates for a breakout season: Jarrett Culver, Josh Okogie, Jake Layman, Hernangomez, Naz Reid, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.

From this list Culver, Okogie, and Hollis-Jefferson, and to some extent, Layman, are vying for playing time at the suddenly crowded wing spot.

Limited playing time, especially depending on how head coach Ryan Saunders uses top pick Anthony Edwards, will likely limit the breakout possibilities. Each may have the best years of their careers, but unless one breaks free and gets nearly 30 minutes per game, it’s tough to see any of the young wings taking a huge leap forward.

Playing time factors into why Reid won’t breakout as well. He averaged 9.0 points and 4.1 rebounds last year while playing 16.5 minutes per game. Most of his production, including 11 starts, came while Towns was on the bench with injuries. With Towns back in the fold this year, Reid will be relegated to bench duty, and likely see fewer minutes as well as opportunities to impact the game.

This leaves us with the one player on the Wolves roster who is primed for a breakout season: Juancho Hernangomez.

Why Junacho Hernangomez is the Minnesota Timberwolves’ ideal breakout candidate

Juancho will likely start at the power forward position to begin the season. Sharing the frontcourt with Towns, at least offensively, will be a boon for Hernangomez’s production. After he was traded to Minnesota, the former No. 15 pick played out of his mind.

In 14 games, the Spaniard averaged 12.9 points and 7.3 rebounds per game while quietly hitting 42 percent of his threes. This came while playing just over 29 minutes per game, albeit mostly without Towns. His offensive rating of 112.9 was second-best on the team, just behind Towns.

Looking at those stats quickly and you might think his shooting is bound to regress substantially this season, but his career 3-point shooting percentage is 35.9. If he even splits the difference and shoots 39 percent from three, that’s a huge threat for a 6-foot-9 power forward to be able to stretch the court.

His minutes may be reduced with the return of Towns and the addition of Ed Davis, but the Wolves are still thin in the frontcourt. Layman might see some time at power forward, and Saunders could throw Hollis-Jefferson and Vanderbilt in the 4-spot if they make the roster. Other than those weird iterations of the lineup, it’s basically Towns, Hernangomez, Reid, and Davis sharing frontcourt minutes.

The one thing that can stunt his breakout this year is his poor defense. Last year, Hernangomez had the second-worst defensive rating on the Timberwolves at 118.9, just ahead of trade comrade Malik Beasley. If he truly wants to have a breakout season, the defense needs to greatly improve.

Next. What will Anthony Edwards' role be with the Wolves?. dark

If he can improve even a little bit on the defensive end and his offense continues to shine, Juan Hernangomez is the prime candidate to be Minnesota’s breakout player this season.