2015 NBA Draft Profile: Mario Hezonja


While college basketball fans are caught up in the NCAA tournament, there are talented players overseas that are worth a look. We have looked at over five prospects so far with NBA Draft profiles, but this time, we’re going to focus on international basketball.  The Lakers may not have a top three pick, but in case they do acquire #4 or #5, Mario Hezonja is worth a look.

Name: Mario Hezonja

Team: Barcelona

Position: Shooting Guard/Small Forward

Height: 6’8″

Weight: 200 pounds

Draft Position: Top 10 pick

Overview: With the recent play of Klay Thompson, shooting skills are a premiere talent at the NBA level. Not only is he a catch-and-shoot player, but he’s willing to attack the basket, shoot off-the-dribble, and play great defense on the floor.  Mario Hezonja is of that mold.   

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Why the Lakers Should Be Excited: Mario Hezonja has a good foundation of triple threat skills. Shooting is his best NBA-translatable skill. Just a couple months ago, he shot 8 for 8 behind the three-point arc. Like Klay Thompson, he has shown great range in various offensive situations. There are instances where he runs a pick-and-roll situation and is able to draw in the defense and hit the roll-man for a high percentage shot.

Athletically, he is underrated. With a good first step, he is able to get by the defense on a straight-line drive and explode to the basket in a half-court situation.

Level of competition is not an issue either. Half of his team is comprised of former NBA picks and draft prospects.  Over a month ago, he played against Real Madrid, comprised of three NBA draft picks and four others with NBA experience.

Defensively, he has good tools to work with. He’s simply bigger than most shooting guards at the NBA level, with good quickness, footspeed, and great vertical leaping ability.

(Pardon the NSFW music)

Here are highlights of Mario Hezonja’s offensive versatility and athleticism:

Why The Lakers Should Be Wary: The Lakers need a franchise player and Mario Hezonja may not be it.  While he shows all of the skills of a dynamic scorer and potential on defense, there is a transition of basketball play and culture when drafting international players.  Some adapt better than others.

When he attacks the basket, he is right-hand dominant. He has shown that he can dribble twice consecutively with his left hand, but it needs to improve at the NBA level.

In isolation situations, he lacks shake while he is handling the basketball. He likes to rely on his jumpshot and shoot over his defender, even if the shot is 25′ away from the basket.

Defensive focus can also improve.  He is too athletic with great size at his position.

Final Say: If the Lakers lose out on Okafor, Towns, and Russell, they can opt for an elitely athletic defensive center in Willie Cauley-Stein or acquire a great second or third option on offense on Hezonja. The Lakers need all the talent they can acquire. While Hezonja has a few opportunities to work on, they are all easily fixable and part of a natural skills progression for most rookie players.

The Lakers missed out on Klay Thompson after he signed an extension with Golden State. But, can Mario Hezonja become a more athletic Klay Thompson on a rookie scale contract?

It’s possible. I’ll take that.

Next: 2015 NBA Draft Profile: Willie Cauley-Stein