Bruno Fernando is back with the very organization that came away with him on draft night 2019. As the first Angolan in NBA history, he arrived as a player with a unique physical profile and a high level of skill for a still developing big man. Expectations within the franchise have since heightened the Atlanta Hawks traded up in the second round to nab Fernando out of Maryland with the 34th overall pick. He featured in the rotation in his rookie season, but the Hawks sagged to a 20-47 record in a truncated rebuilding season.
With the Hawks making a playoff push in the 2020-21 season — and Clint Capela and Onyeka Okongwu now in fold — Fernando was largely left out of the active rotation. In the offseason that followed, Fernando was moved to the Boston Celtics in a trade that brought Delon Wright to Atlanta, and later that season he was again moved to the Houston Rockets at the trade deadline.
Fernando re-signed with the Rockets in 2022 to a four-year deal worth over $10 million in total money but with only the first season guaranteed. The Hawks later traded for Bruno Fernando at the 2023 trade deadline in a deal involving four players and two second round picks largely predicated in shaving salary. While he returned to a familiar environment in Atlanta, Fernando again would be on the outside looking in of the Hawks rotation until the end of the season.
Fernando averaged just 3.9 points, 3.5 rebounds, 0.9 blocks, and 0.8 assists in 10.4 minutes per game between the Rockets and Hawks this season. He displayed his usual energy and activity despite sporadic minutes, and moreover he is seen as a locker room leader in just his fourth season in the league. Still, the lack of production means the Hawks have a decision to make on Fernando’s almost $2.6 million non-guaranteed salary on June 29th — just before the start of free agency heading into the 2023-24 season.
Head coach Quin Snyder has gotten a short look at Fernando down the stretch of this season and will certainly have a large say in if he is retained or not. With Snyder looking to implement his system and tweak the scheme, this decision could go either way, and Fernando could even be valuable trade bait with his unorthodox contract. But at the age of just 24-years-old, it’s hard to imagine that his NBA journey ends here.