2015 NBA Draft Scouting Report: Mario Hezonja

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Prospect Strengths: 

It’s hard to fathom what the hype around Hezonja would be were he an American college prospect. He possesses a unique combination of bravado, swagger, aggression, and the ever-elusive ‘it-factor’ that NBA fans drool over. International prospects are difficult to evaluate due to the unmeasurable issues that come with traveling far from home, adapting to a new culture, and adjusting to the rigors of what the NBA has to offer. Though Hezonja has been playing professionally for over five years, his arrival in the United States will be a shock.

Yet if there is any international player with a makeup that could not only handle, but potentially flourish in the NBA culture the consensus is that Hezonja fits the bill. Playing for Barcelona, perhaps the most notable organization outside the NBA, has most likely prepared Hezonja well for the type of environment he’ll deal with when he is drafted. That, combined with his natural mental and personality make-up makes Hezonja one of the more intriguing international prospects in recent memory.

There is far more to Hezonja’s game than the swagger he carries with himself every time he touches the floor. He is long, athletic, has room to grow, and has a refinement to his game in the types of areas that may allow him to contribute sooner than some of his international brethren have in years past. As mentioned before, if Hezonja donned a Duke or Kentucky jersey last year instead of the Barcelona colors, he could even be in the conversation for teams at the very top of the draft.

When watching Hezonja’s highlights, it’s impossible not to marvel at his athleticism. Regardless of what one might think about the quality of athletes that make up the league Barcelona plays in, ‘playing above the rim’ is universal and Hezonja does just that on a staggering basis. Hezonja mixes his explosiveness with creativity and strong coordination to deliver some truly remarkable plays at the rim, not unlike the one see earlier in the report. Especially considering he’s only 20, one has to figure maintaining that athleticism will be top priority for the team that drafts him.

Hezonja’s ability to knock down shots from the perimeter makes his explosiveness and athleticism that much more dangerous. Here’s what Sixers.com reporter Max Rappaport had to say about Hezonja in that regard.

"“Is an elite three-point shooter (37.9% on 6.7 attempts per 36 minutes) and went 8-for-8 from deep in 23 minutes in a game earlier this season with FC Barcelona… Has range out to well beyond NBA three-point line and isn’t afraid to pull up from 25+ feet… Can shoot off of curls, spot-up, and off the dribble”"

Especially if Hezonja can develop a quality pump-fake while continuing to excel from deep, he should have the opportunity to attack teams off the dribble as his game develops at the NBA level. Given where the NBA is trending as far as dependance on the three-point shot, Hezonja’s ability to do so at a high level at this age bodes well for whatever team decides to draft him.

Another promising element of Hezonja’s game, especially as far as teams like the Sixers are concerned, is his ability to work within a pick-and-roll intensive offense. While some teams prefer to operate their primary P&R game between a guard and a big man, there are those who can do so from the wing position as well. Here’s what DraftExpress.com had to say about Hezonja’s diverse offensive game.

"A capable ball handler, Hezonja also flashes the ability to create his own shot, notably as the ball handler in the pick and roll. His ability to explode past the defense with his strong first step off the dribble make him a threat to get to the rim, and he has a bit of shake to his floor game as well, showing the ability to use step backs to create space for his jump shots. Making 42% of his pull-up jump shots and finishing at a 62% clip around the rim, Hezonja’s scored efficiently in a variety of ways this season."

Based on his size and athletic ability, one would figure Hezonja to be a capable-to-potentially high-level defender. Even with question marks about his commitment on that end of the floor and a tendency to drift at times, it might tempt a team knowing what potentially harnessing that ability could do for them going forward.

Some might value Hezonja’s intangibles (swagger, confidence, etc.) higher than others. A lot of what it comes down to with young men about to make the type of jump that Hezonja will be making is self-belief and an understanding that he is absolutely capable of making an impact wherever he plays. Though he might deal with some growing pains, there have probably been dozens of prospects who didn’t have a prayer because they didn’t 110% believe they did. That won’t be the case with Hezonja.

Here are his season highlights, courtesy of Max Rappaport’s scouting report on Hezonja.