Pelicans with two of the top centers in international play

Jonas Valanciunas #17 of Lithuania controls the ball against Willy Hernangomez #14 of Spain during the (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Jonas Valanciunas #17 of Lithuania controls the ball against Willy Hernangomez #14 of Spain during the (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

The New Orleans Pelicans have been well-represented in the FIBA EuroBasket tournament, with several players making an impact for their teams.

Jose Alvarado flashed an improved 3-point shot in the WC qualifiers earlier in the summer, and second-round pick Karlo Matkovic put together some good games for Croatia in the EuroBasket tournament.

But the real stars have been at the center position, where both Jonas Valanciunas and Willy Hernangomez have been outstanding for Lithuania and Spain, respectively.

The two went head-to-head in the round of 16, with Hernangomez getting the better of Jonas, scoring 21 points and leading Spain to the win while holding Jonas to just five points.

Spain is in the semi-finals for the 11th straight year and Hernangomez is leading the way, hoping to set up a finals matchup with either Poland or favorite France.

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With two players dominating at the same position, you wonder how this might affect the New Orleans Pelicans’ rotation going into next season.

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Jonas Valanciunas is the starting center for the Pelicans and will get most of the minutes. He was one of the top-10 centers in the NBA last season by just about any measure.

Hernangomez has proven himself to be a steady backup who steps up when called upon, and the Pels’ coaches might have even more confidence in him after what he’s done in international play.

Hernangomez is leading all centers in the EuroBasket tournament in scoring at 17.9 points per game and has also added 7.1 rebounds and 1.1 assists.

Valanciunas isn’t far behind, as he averaged 16.2 points, 10.5 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game in his time with Lithuania, which was good for third among centers.

Watching Hernangomez thrive in an expanded role may give the Pelicans more confidence and insurance if they decide to move on from Jaxson Hayes at some point this season. Hayes’ option is up for renewal soon, so the Pelicans have some tough decisions to make.

Hernangomez is showing out for Spain and will try to keep it going tonight in a tough matchup against Germany, who just ousted Giannis and Greece in the quarterfinals.

He’s going to make it tough for the Pelicans to keep him on the bench next season, and may be working towards a bigger role depending on how the roster shakes out.

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