Scouting Report – Mario Hezonja
College basketball is in full swing and the NBA playoff race is starting to heat up, but for franchises like the Knicks, Lakers, 76ers and a few others, their attention has turned to the NBA Draft and finding their next piece to the puzzle. Therefore, we at Over The Grill are going to turn our attention to some NBA Draft Coverage with some reports on the major prospects. Lest week, I looked at D’Angelo Russell, the talented volume scorer out of Ohio State. This week, I bring you international 20 year old, Mario Hezonja, who has both the size and shooting ability to take over a team’s wing shooter small forward position.
Name: Mario Hezonja
Current Team: International, Croatia, Playing for Barcelona
Position: Small Forward/Shooting Guard
Weight: 200 lbs
Age: 20 years old
Current Stats: 8.6 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 1.3 APG, 48.4% FG, 76.2% FT, 41.2% 3PFG
Projected Draft Range: 2-6
Mario Hezonja is another interesting overseas prospect whose been playing in the ACB and the EURO league for FC Barcelona. He has great potential as a wing player off the bench in his first few years. His offensive prowess makes this Croatian a candidate for a 3-4 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft with the Minnesota Timberwolves being a best fit in my opinion. He plays limited minutes, only averaging 17.7 a game, and his numbers show this, averaging 8.6 points per game. But Hezonja is a strong shooter, hitting 48.4% of his shots and 41.2% of his 3-pointers.
He has excellent size and frame to play the 2 and, with a little more development and increased strength, he can become a strong option at the 3. He is an explosive athlete, who can finish above the rim and has been know to be on the receiving end of alley-oops. In the open court, he has displayed very good speed, and can easily go up and down. He is also a good rebounder for his position, averaging 6.1 defensive boards per 40 minutes. He has an impressive slashing ability. His speed and athleticism along with an excellent first step allow him to get to the rim and make plays off the dribble. He can handle the ball well, and uses both hands when attacking the basket. Hezonja’s strongest asset is his shooting stroke. He has excellent mechanics with a smooth-as-silk release. He can make shots consitently from behind the arc, shooting 41% from 3-point land through 15 games with Barcelona. He is best as a spot up shooter, scoring 1.229 points per possession with his feet set, but doesn’t have a problem creating his own shot with a few dribbles. He sees the floor well for his position, and can make plays, especially in transition.
On defense, Hezonja is a little better than the previous prospects I scouted. He uses his physical tools well to defend his man. He moves well laterally, and gets up and pressures the ball. With his size and speed, Hezonja should have no problem guarding both SFs and SGs at the NBA level. Hezonja struggles at times with his shot selection, settling for bad jumpers and too many long, contested 2s. He can play selfishly at times, and needs to improve his decision making, both when passing and shooting. He is also a bit inconsistent when it comes to shooting and can be very streaky. He is especially inconsistent when he puts the ball on the ground first, and his release is not very quick. Although he is capable using both hands, his discomfort going to his left is apparent. He lacks defensive discipline at the moment. He struggles as a team defender, getting lost when guarding off-ball, often not playing any help defense. He likes to gamble, and gets caught out of position at times. As I said before, he has potential to be a great defender, but needs to be pushed in that direction. What is concerning is his attitude and character. Hezonja has poor body language around his teammates and has been noted to seem disinterested in the game. He is also said to be arrogant, thinking he is better than he is.He may be humbled quickly when it comes to the NBA.
All in all, I belive Mario Hezonja is a top 5-6 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. His athleticism, speed, and size could allow Hezonja to succeed playing a wing shooter role. He has the potential to be a great NBA defender, and I think in the right system with the right tutelage, Hezonja can be molded into a very serviceable starter. The kids ability to shoot the ball can allow the Croatian player to rely on his offense while he develops his game into a more well rounded one. He may not always make the best decisions, but his handles and passing ability spells playmaker for the 6’8” Small Forward type. I believe the Minnesota Timberwolves would be a perfect match for the 20 year old, as plugging him in next to Andrew Wiggins could be devastating in the very near future.