2. Defensive Potential
Some may be running thin on patience with Mario Hezonja’s progression into a high-level player, but he’s still just 23 years of age. Thus, while the New York Knicks may not invest a four-year contract in Hezonja’s potential, he’s far from finished with his development.
If the Knicks are right to trust the current coaching staff, then it stands to reason that Hezonja could realize his untapped potential at The Mecca—including his upside on defense.
Hezonja admittedly hasn’t shown much on the defensive end of the floor during his three-year NBA career. There were clear signs of improvement during the 2017-18 campaign, however, and the advanced metrics are indicative of it.
Hezonja’s 1.8 Defensive Win Shares set a new career-high, as did his Defensive BPM of +0.2—the first time in his career that he’s produced a positive mark.
Furthermore, Hezonja’s Defensive Real Plus-Minus improved from -2.20 in 2016-17 to -1.30 in 2017-18. He also held opponents to 35.7 percent shooting on three-point field goals in 2017-18—just one season after after allowing assignments to convert 43.7 percent of their shots from distance.
Hezonja is still a negative defender, but for a Knicks team that’s looking to add size, length, and athleticism on defense, he makes sense as an upside signing on a reasonable deal.