New York Knicks forward Mario Hezonja has traveled a rocky path to his fourth NBA season, but he still believes he can develop into an All-Star.
When Mario Hezonja surfaced on the NBA Draft radar, a consistent likening emerged: Tracy McGrady. Analysts and coaches alike made the upside comparison for the Croatian star, who’d earned the nickname, “Crobe,” overseas.
For those who can’t tell, “Crobe,” is a combination of Hezonja’s Croatian nationality and the comparisons he received to five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant.
Through three seasons, Hezonja has been unable to live up to the hype. He struggled mightily with the Orlando Magic, so much so that the franchise actually declined the fourth-year player option in his rookie deal—a shocking development for a former top-five draft pick.
According to Marc Berman of The New York Post, an anonymous NBA source revealed that Hezonja still believes he can overcome the outside noise and develop into an All-Star.
"According to an NBA source close to Hezonja, the 6-foot-8 combo forward still believes he’s going to make it to an All-Star Game one day."
"“He’s very brash,’’ the NBA source said of Hezonja. “He thinks he’s going to be an All-Star. Maybe he’s had some bouts of immaturity along the way and his attention strayed when he didn’t get minutes, but he’s also smart and kindhearted.”"
It may sound like an outlandish claim on the surface, but at 23 years of age, Hezonja’s NBA story has yet to be written.
Standing at 6’8″ and 218 pounds with a 6’10” wingspan and plus athleticism, Hezonja has the physical tools to be an impact player. He can play above the rim, break out in transition, and move well enough laterally to at least become a respectable team defender.
Hezonja showed promise in that regard in 2017-18, as he produced career-best marks in Defensive RPM, Defensive BPM, and Defensive Win Shares.
It’s on the offensive end of the floor that the Bryant and McGrady comparisons were born, however, as Hezonja plays an aggressive style with a unique set of strengths.
Hezonja has the size to shoot over the average wing or step in as a stretch 4 in the modern NBA. His jump shot is still shaky, but he has solid form from beyond arc, as well as the ability to finish in traffic when he maintains proper body control.
The Bryant and McGrady comparisons may never come to fruition, but one would be remiss to ignore the borderline fact that Hezonja has tremendous untapped potential.
Whether or not Mario Hezonja develops into an All-Star, David Fizdale and the New York Knicks have a unique talent on the roster—and that’s something to be excited about.