After an overdue breakout year of sorts, Mario Hezonja is set to hit NBA free agency at a time when he could make for an intriguing buy-low prospect for multiple teams, including the Milwaukee Bucks.
Who is Mario Hezonja?
Born in the scenic city of Dubrovnik, Croatia — the location of King’s Landing for any Game of Thrones fans out there — Mario Hezonja first came to the wider attention of NBA fans as he gained a reputation as a brash, yet highly skilled scorer in Europe.
Hezonja impressed as he worked his way to relatively consistent minutes at a young age with Barcelona, trash-talked his way through EuroLeague play, shot the lights out from distance and made bold proclamations about how rather than him going to see Lionel Messi play, one of the greatest soccer players of all-time should be watching him instead.
All of that proved to be enough to convince the Orlando Magic to draft him with the fifth overall pick in 2015, yet with limited opportunity in the two seasons that followed, Hezonja failed to do enough to convince the team to exercise their team option for the fourth year on his contract.
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Following that decision, and during a season that was somewhat injury-hit for the Magic, Hezonja finally got some chances to show what he could do in 2017-18, and notably kicked on after the All-Star break.
Hezonja averaged 9.6 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game for the year, with shooting splits of .442/.337/.819. Overall, Hezonja scored in double-digits on 37 occasions, including six games of at least 20 points.
Those kind of contributions beg the question of why it’s taken Hezonja so long to produce. The reality is part of that is on the Magic’s failure to put any of their young players in position to succeed in recent years and Hezonja’s often questionable instincts making him the definition of a player capable of going from hot to cold, or vice versa, at a moment’s notice.
In a profile on the Croatian’s personality and rollercoaster NBA journey so far, Danny Chau of The Ringer described the Hezonja experience, and how it can go off the rails, as “fits of brilliance entwine with flights of fancy, and soon enough he’s Icarus, crashing down to earth like a ball of space junk”.
What remains clear with Hezonja is there’s something there. Could a change of scenery help him to deliver his best on a more frequent basis? This summer may present us with a chance to find out.
Let’s take a closer look at Hezonja’s free agent situation, including the strengths and weaknesses of his game, potential cost, and much more.