But there still seems to be a chance the 6-foot-10 Angolan could slip into the second round, which means his introduction will come late June 20 and be made by deputy commissioner Mark Tatum.
There appears to be a wide range of opinions on Fernando, who announced in late April that he was putting his name into this year’s draft and then last month said he was foregoing his final two seasons of eligibility in College Park.
Most mock drafts have Fernando going in the second half of the opening round.
Drafttek.com has Fernando at No. 17, going to the Brooklyn Nets. Basketball Insiders projects him at No. 23 to the Utah Jazz. NBA Draft Room has him going No. 26 to the Cleveland Cavaliers, as does Sean Deveney of Sporting News.
SI.com picks Fernando one spot later going to Nets, Bleacher Report and CBS Sports have him at No. 28 to the Golden State Warriors while Chris Stone of Sporting News has him No. 29 to the San Antonio Spurs. USA Today has Fernando as the last pick in the first round, No. 30 to the Milwaukee Bucks.
At least two mock drafts have the All-Big Ten first-teamer and Big Ten All-Defensive Team performer being a potential lottery pick.
NBADraft.net projects Fernando going to the Washington Wizards at No. 9 and Forbes wrote the Atlanta Hawks, who have the Nos. 8 and 10 picks, recently did a “deep dive” on Fernando. The Hawks have two other former Terps on their roster, last year’s No. 19 pick Kevin Huerter and Alex Len.
A number of high-profile media organizations are not that high on Fernando.
ESPN’s Jonathan Givony recently dropped Fernando to the Dallas Mavericks at No. 37. The Athletic, which earlier had Fernando as a first-round pick, now have him at No. 40 — the same spot Diamond Stone got picked after his freshman year at Maryland — to the Sacramento Kings. The Ringer has him going at No. 34 to the Philadelphia 76ers.
One longtime NBA scout, who asked to remain anonymous, said he has long been a fan of Fernando, though he become more certain of Fernando’s NBA future last season when he turned into Maryland’s most consistent player.
“From the first time I laid eyes on him his freshman year, you can tell he has the makeup of a NBA player,” the scout said. “He’s big, strong, athletic, mobile. Terrific motor, love the motor — that I saw. You could see he was raw offensively.
“His footwork, which you can see is very good now, was lacking. He wasn’t natural passing out of double teams, sort of made up what he was going to do and did it, and consequently would travel, charge instead of taking what the defense would give him.”
The scout’s impression changed dramatically last season.
"I would say of all the kids that came back after their freshman year, he would have to be in the conversation as the most improved player in the country,” the scout said. “He started checking boxes that were question marks after his freshman year.
“Offensively, he became an excellent passer, a very willing teammate to do the right thing. He added so much to his game. His rebounding became better. He eliminated a lot of the stupid fouls. You could see he was much more comfortable in almost every situation.”
As with most players projected to go in the first round, Fernando didn’t participate in the scrimmages at the draft combine in Chicago last month, but tested well in the drills.
He had the third-best leaping ability among centers in both standing (29.5 inches) and running (33.5), had the best shuttle run (3.05 seconds) and three-quarter sprint (3.21) and was second in lane agility (11.29).
Though he didn’t shoot it as well as he did at last year’s combine, Fernando led all centers in shooting 15 footers on the move (71 percent), which could be attractive to teams that utilize pick-and-pop mid-range jumpers with their big men.
In a recent interview, Fernando said he isn’t getting too caught up with where he might wind up and when he’s selected in the draft. Fernando has worked out for several teams projected to be in the middle-to-late first round, including the Detroit Pistons (No. 15), Hawks, Celtics and Spurs.
Fernando said it doesn’t make a difference to him if he goes to a rebuilding team, with whom he’ll play a lot — like Len, the No. 5 overall pick of the Phoenix Suns in 2013, and Huerter last season — or a perennial playoff team like Jake Layman as a 2016 second-round pick (No. 47). With the Portland Trail Blazers, Layman had to wait for his chance.
“As a person with my character and the person that I am, I think I’ll be fine with any situation I’m in,” Fernando said. “If it’s a good team or a bad team, I think I’ll still get better and just learn from everybody that’s on the team. Just how much focus and dedication I put into my game and myself on and off the court, I think I’ll be able to focus on whatever I have in front of me and get better.”