Coming into the 2018-19 season looking to prove himself following an underwhelming stint with the Orlando Magic, Mario Hezonja showed the New York Knicks that his only consistent skill is his inconsistency.
As one of the former lottery picks given a chance at redemption this past season, Mario Hezonja‘s 2018-19 campaign with the New York Knicks provided the organization with few concrete reasons to resign the young player in the offseason.
Coming into the league, Hezonja was projected as “potentially” one of the better player in the 2015 draft class, with scouts lauding the guard’s “high level athleticism even by NBA standards” and “unlimited range.” These scouted skills and projected room for growth led to Hezonja even being ranked as the No. 1 shooting guard prospect in his class, ahead of more established college players like Devin Booker.
This potential catapulted Hezonja to the No. 5 pick in 2015, but a lack of tangible end product saw him joining the Knicks in the 2018 offseason far from the franchise cornerstone he was projected becoming for the Magic.
During the 2018-19 season Hezonja played significant minutes at multiple positions from point guard through power forward, but at the same time played the fewest number of games out of his previous 3 seasons with Orlando, only playing 58 games this past season. Until a late season stint at point guard yielded some impressive results, including a season-high 30 points against the Washington Wizards, Hezonja’s 2018-19 season with the Knicks was filled with more lows than highs.
Looking at his averages, it starts to make sense that Coach David Fizdale preferred to let Kevin Knox struggle through a rough rookie season rather than give more minutes to Hezonja.
On the offensive end of the ball Hezonja only averaged 8.8 points on 8 shots per game, shooting 41.2 percent from the field. Despite his projected “unlimited range” on draft night, Hezonja shot 27.6 percent from 3 on 2.6 attempts during the 2018-19 season, showing to be ineffective on both catch-and-shoot and pull-up 3-point attempts.
On defense, despite showing some impressive and crucial man defense on Lebron James against the Los Angeles Lakers in March, Hezonja ranked in the bottom 3rd of players in terms of defensive rating, giving up as much as 22.1 points in the paint.
Looking ahead to the 2019 offseason, the Knicks front office are left with the same questions about Hezonja as his previous franchise: “Is he a shooter? A slasher? What positions can he defend? What is his best position?” With so many questions, the Knicks would be better off passing on offering Hezonja a contract for a more consistent player this summer.