Why Mario Hezonja is my #1 ranked prospect in the 2014 draft
The 2014 draft class should be a doozy. The amount of prospects who are celebrities in high school is historic: Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, Andrew Harrison are among the players with national publicity.
Right now Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker top most boards, with the Wiggins’ hype as particularly enormous. They are great prospects but I have my reservations about both. As I posted here, I feel Wiggins’ athletically is overrated as he is not a dynamic blow-by player off the dribble. He also has a raw shooting and ball-handling game. Wiggins has an amazing feel for the game but I’m concerned whether he’ll have the first step and ballhandling to be an elite slasher, or whether he’ll shoot well enough from long distance. As for Jabari in a way he is the anti-Wiggins. He has an outstanding skill game, highlighted by his shooting and post ability for a high school player and is a crafty dribbler and creator. He has a tremendous feel and IQ. The concern with him is athleticism and whether he’s an explosive enough player to consistently slash and create offense getting to the rim, or whether he’ll be a player forced to settle for perimeter jumpers. Both to me should end up blue chip players for a franchise, but I have concerns about whether they have complete enough talent bases to take it to the next level and be an All-NBA, transcendent franchise player.
Mario Hezonja to me is the most complete small forward prospect of the 3. Hezonja is a terrific slasher due to his ball-handling and first step, with the size to finish at the rim. He’s also an outstanding perimeter shooter and shot creator. Like Wiggins and Parker he has a tremendous feel for the game and IQ and craftiness creating his offense. Hezonja thus is somewhat of a middle ground between Wiggins and Parker. Wiggins is a high end athlete who needs to improve his ball-skills, while Parker is a high end skill player who may not be explosive or athletic enough in the NBA. Hezonja is both explosive and a high end skill player. To me he looks like the complete package for a perimeter offensive prospect, with the ability to attack the basket off the dribble, to hit the outside shot at an elite rate and having the natural feel and IQ to make it all work. The more I see of him, the more complete and dynamic his game and talent looks. To quote Monta Ellis, Mario Hezonja have it all.
A few years ago on a message board, I heard a poster make an astute comment about European and International prospects. He said that because of the failed European picks in the top 10 years like Darko Milicic, Nikoloz Tskitishvili, Yi Jianlian, Andrea Bargnani, etc., as well as the “International Man of Mystery” feel to these prospects instead of the familiar NCAA production – that there is a stigma and fear about ranking European prospects too high. And that because of this, eventually those failed European draft picks, will come back to bite teams when they underrate and are too fearful of the next international star whenever he comes. Eventually simply because of odds and time there will be a superstar talent who’s ranked in the top 10 of a draft – and in all likelihood, being international and the fear that comes with that will be what prevents him from going #1. Mario Hezonja may or may not be that guy, but looks like he has the best chance of any International player in years to make that prediction come to fruition. Even if Parker and Wiggins’ weaknesses are apparent after next college season, it seems obvious no team would have the balls to take Mario Hezonja 1st over them. We’ll see if that’s a mistake or not.