In a surprising turn, the Raptors officially announced this afternoon that they are waiving centre Dewan Hernandez in advance of the 2020-21 season. The soon-to-be 24-year-old big man would have once again been the Raptors 14th or 15th man for the coming season, but it still comes as something of a shock given Toronto’s usual regard for their own draft picks as of late — and their ability to develop them into useful NBA players.
The thinking here from Toronto may have more to do with roster management and salary cap thinking than potential. Though, due to things he could and couldn’t control, Hernandez didn’t do much to prove he could stick in the NBA.
Toronto announced that they have waived Dewan Hernandez.— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) November 26, 2020
Hernandez was set to have his $1.5M contract guaranteed on Nov. 29.
Hernandez joined the Raptors for the 2019-20 season as the 59th pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. There’s usually no reason to believe a player picked in that range will hang on in the league, but Hernandez is a lithe 6’10”, 235 pounds, and showed he had some of the mobility and shooting range needed to be a new-age frontcourt player in the NBA. He still had a ways to go, particularly on the defensive end and appeared in just six games during last season for the Raptors. Unfortunately a serious ankle injury kept him off the floor for the 905 in the G League as well, which surely hurt his development — and his chances of staying with the Raptors.
After adding two new rookies in the 2020 NBA Draft — Malachi Flynn and Jalen Harris — and then signing a pair of established centres in Aron Baynes and Alex Len, it was clear the Raptors were about to run into a bit of a roster crunch. As reviewed here: with Hernandez on the roster, the team was at 16 players — and that’s before adding Len as the team’s backup centre, and before addressing what to do with their other two-way contract slot, which may go to rookie Harris or a returning Oshae Brissett (who is still on the restricted free agent market). There’s also Terence Davis to consider, but we’ll leave that for now.
In truth, Toronto just did not have a lot to lose by letting Hernandez go. Some team could — and likely will — pick him up to become their 15th man or to solidify their G League roster at some point in the future. But with no timetable for a G League return and roster needs now shifting elsewhere for Toronto (e.g. it’s hard to teams to justify carrying three centres), releasing Hernandez saves the team a few bucks in the short term and presumably opens the way for the return of Brissett or some other forward option.
Here’s hoping Hernandez can regain his footing in the NBA soon because, I’ll be honest, he flashed some funky skills at times and I hope he gets a chance to ply his trade for real in the league. Best of luck, Dewan.