With the 2015 NBA Draft only a few weeks away, it is time to take a closer look at one of the most intriguing prospects in the draft – Mario Hezonja. The 20-year-old currently plays for European basketball powerhouse FC Barcelona in the Spanish ACB. In his play for the club and for the Croatian national team, where he teams with 2014 Sixers draftee Dario Sarić, Hezonja has proven to be an exciting player with an impressive skill set and the potential to be a star in the NBA.
Hezonja’s most significant NBA skill is his shooting. He possesses a smooth, high release that he uses consistently, leading to successful shooting in both off-the-dribble and catch-and-shoot situations. For his entire career, Hezonja has been shooting three pointers from behind the FIBA line, which is deeper than the NCAA one, meaning he could be better equipped to shoot NBA threes compared to the other shooters in the draft. Andrew Johnson at Nylon Calculus projects Hezonja to shoot three pointers at a 36.8 percent clip, which is better than all but two of the 2014-15 Sixers (Hollis Thompson and Robert Covington).
Two other aspects of Hezonja’s game that will translate well to the NBA are his length and his athleticism. At 6-foot-8, Hezonja has great size for an NBA wing. His length will allow him to get shots off over tall defenders as well as contest shots effectively on the other end. Mario is also a very explosive player, able to leap to snag rebounds and throw down dunks. This, combined with his speed, mean Mario Hezonja will be an absolute terror in transition.
Hezonja is a player with a constant supply of confidence, a trait that can be both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, confidence is essential if Hezonja – or any NBA player – is to be successful, particularly one who relies on his three-point shooting. This is part of what leads NBA scouts and executives to believe he has such a high ceiling. On the other hand, confidence can easily spill over into cockiness that signals trouble with teammates and coaches. Hezonja has had his fair share of such trouble, especially at youth levels. Moreover, this cockiness occasionally leads to issues with accepting a role, as when Mario takes deep, contested shots instead of deferring to teammates.
Another factor to consider is the possibility of trading down for Hezonja. If Sam Hinkie feels like Mario is better than the other players who will be available at the number three spot, he could try to swap picks with a team in the four to eight range, depending on where Hezonja would still be available. In doing so, the team could pick up additional players or assets as the price for moving a few spots in the draft.
Mario Hezonja is an exciting prospect who pairs a knack for shooting with NBA-level explosiveness. He has tremendous upside, and the Sixers would undoubtedly benefit from his sensational package of skills. If you are still not convinced, go to the tape!