If you watched Bruno Fernando play much at Maryland, you saw a player who looked like a man amongst boys, an old-school center that played a lot bigger than his listed 6’9″. He was named first-team All-Big 10, as well as to the conference’s defensive team, as a sophomore. Based on his playing style as well as his body of work, if Bruno had played in an earlier era, he would have been a first-round pick on his talent level alone.
Fernando was a good value at the beginning of the second round, but it has taken him a while to get on his feet in the NBA, which is not out of the ordinary whatsoever for a rookie center. However, it was perplexing watching a guy who played with such physicality just a handful of months earlier in college, play with such hesitancy coming into the league.
The Hawks have been searching for answers at the center position all season long. They assumed they could get by with Alex Len, who performed well in 2018-19, after Dewayne Dedmon’s departure in free agency. But that has not been the case. The Hawks have tried starting Len, as well as the newly acquired Damion Jones, at various points in the season, without much luck. For that reason, they have actively been in trade talks surrounding centers. But recently, Lloyd Pierce has started a new experiment that’s been, at the very least, more enjoyable to watch.
Bruno Fernando has started the majority of the games for the Hawks since mid-December. And while it is merely a timeshare between the three centers on the roster, Fernando has gotten his feet under him and started to play with the identity he did back in his college days.
Since Fernando has returned to the States after dealing with a personal matter, he’s been a different guy. Just last night, he posted his best game as a pro, scoring 14 points and grabbing 12 rebounds, the first double-double of his young career.
While the team is still far from deeming him the center of the future, he is benefitting from his current situation. Though the Hawks have struggled this season, allowing Fernando, as well as Cam Reddish, to play tons of meaningful minutes has resulted in a lot of growth much quicker than it might have happened with another organization, and both are playing with so much more confidence. Fernando has posted a positive plus-minus in four of his last six games.
His efficiency on the offensive end has been much improved. He shot a handful of threes in college, and that is a department he still needs a ton of work. Sunday night, he was 7-for-9 from the field, and in his impressive game on MLK Day, he was 6-for-7. Fernando will have to shoot higher than the 50% he is currently at from the field, but it is a start, and if he can continue to take efficient shots and adjust defensively to the NBA, at the very least, he should be a solid role player for the Hawks.
Unfortunately, Fernando went down grabbing the back of his leg at the end of the game Sunday night. It doesn’t look like he will play tonight, but it did not look like anything too serious.