Analyzing Five Conceivable Landing Spots for Mario Hezonja
If Hezonja remains in Orlando this upcoming season, the future looks bleak. With Orlando’s offseason acquisitions of Isaac, Simmons, Afflalo, and Iwundu, Mario will have to fight even harder to even crack the rotation.
The depth chart in Orlando will probably look something like:
Not ideal for his development.
For Mario to thrive, we must look elsewhere.
(Before reading, note I too realize how poorly ESPN does depth charts. Bear with me)
San Antonio Spurs
Corrections: Gay is a 3/4, Murray will not start.
Hezonja could receive time as the backup 2, or as a third string player at either forward spot. The Spurs have a knack for developing players. Hezonja has potential just waiting to be unlocked by San Antonio. Mario could inject athleticism to the Spurs bench and already shows incredible ability to pass the ball at such a young age. The Spurs could realistically deal Derrick White and some future picks to get Mario from Orlando.
Hezonja would be looking at big minutes as the backup SF on the Mavericks. The Mavs could conceivably package either Devin Harris or J.J. Barea, along with some second round picks, to complete the trade. Another (unlikely) scenario could involve them trading Seth Curry or Wesley Matthews in conjunction with Dwight Powell in exchange for Nikola Vucevic and Mario Hezonja, giving Hezonja big minutes at both the 2 and the 3. Mario would help move along Dallas’ youth movement while providing both scoring and playmaking off the bench.
New Orleans Pelicans
In this situation, Hezonja would be starting or second string SF, second string SG, and a potential backup small-ball-PF. If the whole “starting two Point Guards” thing doesn’t work out, one could reasonably expect Hezonja to start getting big minutes at the 2 and the 3 as the season progresses. Mario could also play sparse minutes at the 4 when Davis plays the 5 and Diallo rests or has poor performances. The Pelicans would have a hard time making an offer to Orlando, but Solomon Hill and future protected picks could do the trick.
With Knight likely out for the season and no (NBA-caliber) backup SG, Hezonja could be a deadly sixth man off the bench for the Suns, providing sparkplug scoring to one of the most promising young teams in the league. Phoenix, unlike Orlando, is not necessarily looking to win right now. If Jackson were to switch over the the small-ball 4, and Chriss to the Center position, Hezonja could conceivably start at Small Forward if performance permits, or otherwise get big minutes as a backup Shooting Guard or Small Forward in Phoenix. A Bledsoe-Booker-Hezonja-Jackson-Chriss starting lineup could be deadly. And if they manage to deal for Kyrie Irving? Oh boy (Jury is still out on whether or not this would be a good idea). The Suns could offer as little as Miami’s 2018 pick, with projections (if needed) to get the deal done.
Kosta Koufos is, obviously, not starting.
Talk about teams not looking to win right now. Mario could realistically claim the starting SF spot, and at the very least contend for the backup SG and SF spots. Hezonja would provide a second playmaker along with either Hill or Fox. Mario would, alongside Buddy Hield, provide great wing scoring and spacing when Fox and WCS are on the floor. A trade could see Papagiannis headed to Orlando, along with Mason III.