MISSISSAUGA, Ont.— At the same time the Toronto Raptors were dominating the New Orleans Pelicans on the road, Dewan Hernandez was providing a glimpse of the future.
The Raptors 905 power forward was the bright spot on an offense that struggled to maintain shooting consistency. In their home opener, the 905 squad shot 37.8 percent from the field, dropping the first game of the G-league season 109-94 to the Grand Rapids Drive. The inside presence of the Grand Rapids big men made it difficult for the Raptors players to go inside the post for buckets. Raptors 905 had limited second chance looks, as the Grand Rapids outrebounded Toronto 47 to 40.
Whenever Hernandez was on the floor, he was noticeable. He used his stature of 6’10, 235 pounds to draw numerous fouls and “and ones.” In the first quarter, Hernandez showcased a pick and pop three, his first of two three-pointers on the night. The 22-year old’s assist in the post to Tyler Ennis for a corner three demonstrated his willingness to commit to moving the ball.
It is just one game. But Hernandez’s first impression in the Raptors organization was one to remember.
“His length is pretty impressive in terms of how he can move the ball,” said Raptors 905 Head Coach Jama Mahlalela. “He started with those two early threes which I think is a good sign as five that can pop and shoot, that’s a great sign for him.”
Hernandez was the 59th overall pick for the Toronto Raptors in the 2019 NBA Draft. Hailing from the University of Miami, he averaged 11.4 points per game, 6.7 rebounds and 1 block on 57.6 shooting during his sophomore season.
The young power forward garnered attention at the NBA G League Elite Camp, earning him an invitation to the NBA Draft Combine. where his 33.5-inch vertical leap was second among participating centers. His speed was also on display at the combine, clocking in a 3.30-second three-quarter sprint (also, second among centers).
When Raptors President of Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri selected Hernandez with the team’s draft pick, the power forward became ownership’s latest development project. His length and speed make him an asset in the post and on transitioned, evidenced in running back to defend Grand Rapids players in the paint.
Hernandez’s focus on improvement is developing a consistent shot. He has spent a ton of time over the offseason working on his jump shot and his ability to shoot the three. Hernandez needs to not only become a consistent scorer but use his size to be more talkative on defense.
“His composure, his discussion, and talk on defense is something that needs to be worked through a little bit more, getting into coverage, when to switch,” said Mahlalela. “Those are gonna come with time, and I think it’s a great training ground for him to learn those things.”
It is clear that when the Raptors 905 group is scoring, they can record many buckets in a row, from Dewan Hernandez to Canadians Oshae Brissett and Tyler Ennis, who had 14 and 15 points respectively. The challenge now is maintaining that same intensity on defense, not giving the opposition many open shots and reducing the number of turnovers, where the Raptors 905 had 25 against Grand Rapids.
“We need to guard better,” said Hernandez after the game. “Can’t let them put that many points. We also need to reduce our turnovers.”
As Mississauga, Ontario native Oshae Brissett explains, having a player with the potential like Hernandez on the team ignites the confidence of other players.
“We need him to score and get some stops,” said Brissett. “Dewan is a great player and he understands the game really well. It won’t be harder for him to be an asset for us.”
For the time being, Hernandez’s stay with Raptors 905 is short-lived. As a result of Serge Ibaka’s left ankle injury suffered against the New Orleans Pelicans, Hernandez has been called up to the Toronto Raptors. The Raptors’ depth is certainly a question mark given injuries to Kyle Lowry and Ibaka. But it provides the opportunity for a young player like Hernandez to get real NBA minutes and highlight the areas of improvement.
If Friday night’s home opener is any indication, Hernandez has a lot of upside potential and is going to grow with more games under his belt.