Mario Hezonja has had an up and down season with the Portland Trail Blazers in 2019/20. Are we seeing a mini-revival from the Croatian in the NBA Bubble?
A top-five pick in the 2015 Draft, the Orlando Magic drafted Hezonja intending to build around him. Five years later, Hezonja has been in and out of the Blazers’ rotation as he tries to find his feet in the league.
Now in Orlando, in the NBA’s return, it seems that Hezonja is back in favor and fighting for his chance to play regular minutes in the league. At the moment, he needs the Blazers, and they need him. At six-foot-eight, he is the only athletic forward with legitimate NBA experience.
The main reason Hezonja was out of the rotation earlier in the year was because of turnovers and inconsistent shooting and finishing. Though it’s only a ten-game sample, since the All-Star break, Hezonja has managed to be a lot more efficient and also upped his production slightly, albeit on the same amount of minutes.
His turnovers and fouls are also down, while he has more steals. It is a small sample, but when you don’t have any forwards who can defend the big threes and fours of this world, you need to get as many minutes as you can from a guy like Hezonja.
He is six-foot-eight with a six-foot-ten wingspan, can move his feet well, and is stout at 201 pounds. Hezonja has mixed his time between the three and the four this season. With his ball-handling and passing abilities, he can be a point forward who can set his teammates up.
The biggest thing for Hezonja is playing within himself. Not over dribbling or forcing passes, and trying to find good shots within the rhythm of the offense. Finishing at the rim needs to be a focus too, as he is big enough that this should be a strength.
Before the Houston Rockets game, Hezonja had two good performances in Orlando. One where he had a great stretch defending Jayson Tatum. Though Tatum hit some tough shots, Hezonja didn’t give him an inch. Just because a guy doesn’t score 20 points, that doesn’t mean he can’t play an essential role in the rotation.
Hezonja has had a tough year with injuries to himself and others, limiting his effectiveness, but with the short rotation, he has the chance to put his hand up for a more significant role.