Mario Hezonja: A Dynamic Bench Scorer With Playmaking Abilities
Like his new teammate, Mario Hezonja was a top-10 draft pick, due in large part to his impressive athleticism at his size. The athleticism that comes with his 6’8″ frame makes him an impressive slasher, more than capable of finishing in a variety of ways around the rim.
Hezonja has shown that he can knock down the three-ball, but just not at very consistent rates thus far. He’s also displayed flashes of his playmaking ability in the open court, and could develop into a solid passer who can see over the defense.
After a rookie campaign in which “Super Mario” shot 34.9 percent from deep, his percentage dropped to 29.9 percent in his second year before bumping back up to 33.7 percent this past season.
From a passing standpoint, Hezonja has averaged a mere 1.3 assists over his three years in the league. He has, however, shown that he’s capable of being a playmaker in the open floor.
If the New York Knicks can take Mario Hezonja in and improve his shooting and playmaking, he can be a weapon off the bench for them in the future.
Hezonja could fill a similar role to what Michael Beasley was this past season, during which Beas averaged 13.2 points and 5.6 rebounds while playing mostly a bench role in New York.
It will be interesting to see what David Fizdale does with the Knicks’ lineup while Kristaps Porzingis continues to recover from an ACL tear. Hezonja could potentially start the season opener if Fizdale decides to move rookie Kevin Knox to the 4 to go with a smaller lineup.
If Hezonja shows signs of growth in the coming year, it isn’t hard to envision the front office bringing him back for another season. He has the tools to develop into a reliable scorer and a constant contributor at the offensive end.
The Croatian-born swingman has, however, struggled at times on the defensive end of the floor. Hezonja produced the fourth-highest defensive rating on a talent-depleted Orlando Magic team last year.
If he can play well enough on defense to appease David Fizdale, it wouldn’t be surprising to see his offensive tools shine enough for him to stay in New York beyond this season.
Mario Hezonja’s potential with the New York Knicks maxes out as a 13-to-15 point, 3-to-5 assist per game swingman whom Fizdale can utilize behind or alongside Knox.