If you asked fans of the New Orleans Pelicans which player was likely to win MVP this season, the overwhelming favorite would be Zion Williamson.
While that may be true of the NBA season, the Pels’ first MVP was won by Willy Hernangomez, who took the honors after Spain defeated favorite France and won gold in the 2022 FIBA EuroBasket tournament:
Willy and brother Juancho held Rudy Gobert to just six points and six rebounds in the win, with Willy taking home the MVP honors after dominating all tournament for Spain.
The Pels had two of the best centers in the FIBA tournament, as Jonas Valanciunas finished 3rd in scoring among centers, two spots behind his teammate and presumptive backup for next season.
This was a great experience for Hernangomez, who should come into the season sharp and may be able to carve out a bigger role for himself.
New Orleans Pelicans: MVP Willy Hernangomez
Hernangomez had a great run for Spain in an expanded role, which had to make an impression on the Pels’ coaching staff. European basketball is somewhat different than the NBA, but this tournament had elite competition and Hernangomez just beat them all, averaging 17 points and seven rebounds along the way.
This was not only a great learning experience for Willy, but something he can bring back to the Pelicans, who mostly have a young roster that lacks that kind of big-game experience outside of last season’s playoff run.
Hernangomez is going to enter the season on a high, playing well and with confidence, and that is going to be infectious in training camp and preseason, when he’ll be trying to win more minutes in the rotation and even supplanting Jaxson Hayes.
Hernangomez has always stepped up when called upon, and has now shown he can do it in a bigger role on a bigger stage. He adds some championship pedigree to a young roster that needs it and has gotten experience that will help him grow and improve as a player.
Willy Hernangomez was an unlikely choice as the MVP of the offseason, but he took home the hardware and will bring that experience back to the Pelicans.