February 7th 2018: The New York Knicks trade Willy Hernangomez to the Charlotte Hornets
The Knicks traded Willy Hernangomez to the Charlotte Hornets for Johnny O’Bryant and two 2nd round picks in 2020 and 2021. Willy requested a trade a few days earlier after being stuck on the bench behind both Enes Kanter and Kyle O’Quinn. To add insult to injury, the trade occurred only a day before Kristaps Porzingis, Willy’s friend dating back to the Sevilla days, tore his ACL. The Knicks immediately cut O’Bryant, who’s now playing for Lokomotiv Kuban of the VTB United League.
After making the All-Rookie 1st team in the 2016-17 season, there was hope that Willy would become the starter for the Knicks. However, those plans derailed once the Knicks traded Carmelo Anthony for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, and the 2018 Bulls 2nd round pick that turned out to be Mitchell Robinson. Immediately after the trade, Willy had to compete with Enes Kanter & Kyle O’Quinn for minutes at the center position.
Unfortunately, Willy was not able to separate himself from Kanter to receive minutes. The Knicks valued Kyle O’Quinn’s defense to garner minutes regardless. Kanter, however, came into camp in the best shape of his life and showed to be a better offensive threat. Willy did not come into camp in tip-top shape.
Upon hearing of the trade, many fans had mixed reactions. Some thought that Hernangomez would have been an integral piece to our core and that we should have traded O’Quinn or Kanter instead. Others were more giddy about the 2nd round picks acquired and weren’t too high of Willy’s lack of defense and his trade request. (he was a backup after all)
In retrospect, this trade ended up as a win for the front office. The chances of Hernangomez blossoming in his next contract are next to none. Since he requested a trade, it gave the front office no choice but to trade him. For Steve Mills, it meant giving up on a player that he personally scouted when visiting Porzingis before the 2015 NBA Draft. The Knicks regained 2nd round picks in 2020 and 2021 that they ironically had given up to acquire Hernangomez in the 2015 NBA Draft. Both second round picks project to be in the low to mid 30s.
Seeing a need at the center position, the Knicks drafted Mitchell Robinson, who has certainly eclipsed Hernangomez in terms of current production and future potential. Willy’s tenure with the Hornets included many-a DNPs and mediocre production.