Bruno Fernando is poised to become the first Angolan to ever play in the NBA.
The 20-year-old declared for the draft after his freshman season, then withdrew before the deadline. He stayed in the draft this time around, and for good reason — Fernando improved in just about every way as a sophomore. His numbers, feel for the game and draft stock all moved in the right direction.
He averaged 13.6 points, 10.6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game this season for Maryland and was named All-Big Ten First Team and Big Ten All-Defense.
Fernando is an exceptional, explosive athlete who leaps high for lobs, flies for blocks out of nowhere and runs the floor well. He looks the part of an NBA center, too — The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor writes that his “body seems to have been built in a lab.”
His rebounding numbers were excellent at Maryland as he finished second in the Big Ten in both rebounds per game and rebounding percentage (20.2).
Though he only took 13 career college three-pointers, making four, there are signs Fernando may be able to expand his game. He has a solid foundation with his shot, making 77.9 percent of his free throws last season, and he hit 44 percent of his three-pointers at IMG Academy, according to a 2017 piece by Don Markus of The Baltimore Sun.
Fernando takes pride in “my positive energy, my enthusiasm all the time.” It’s not as alluring a quality as his athleticism, but that attitude is a plus if, like the Sixers, you might be considering Fernando as a backup center.
Though he’s showed some progress in this area, Fernando is still not a good passer. He struggles to make quick, correct decisions out of double teams and had 95 turnovers as a sophomore compared to 68 assists.
His trouble with slow instincts extends to the defensive end of the floor. In a preseason piece for The Stepien, Jackson Hoy described one of Fernando’s biggest limitations as his “basketball processing power.” He plays slower than he actually is.
Two minor weaknesses are that Fernando strongly prefers his right hand in the post — although he can finish with his left — and he has a habit of bringing the ball down near his waist after grabbing rebounds.
Backup center is one of the Sixers’ biggest needs and, if they like Fernando, he could very well take that job. Fernando and Daniel Gafford, who Paul Hudrick profiled yesterday, matched up in a recent workout with the Hornets, per The Charlotte Observer’s Rick Bonnell.
Down the line, there’s a chance Fernando could play a little power forward next to Joel Embiid if he develops his jumper. He’s already a good enough athlete to play in the NBA. Perhaps the most important question for Fernando as a Sixer would be whether he currently has the fluidity and sharpness needed to protect the rim in the NBA. He’d likely be competing for minutes with Jonah Bolden, and perhaps a veteran big man the Sixers might acquire in free agency.
Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.