A Deeper Look at Mario Hezonja's Improvement
By Josh Cohen
Feb. 15, 2018
ORLANDO – We’ve seen tremendous growth from Mario Hezonja over the last two months. Injuries to several of the Magic’s starters increased his playing time beginning in late December and he’s taken full advantage of the opportunity.
So, what has changed besides more minutes, hard work in the gym and in practice, and boosted confidence?
For one, Hezonja is really figuring out the NBA game, which is heavy on pick-and-roll sets. In fact, Hezonja leads all Magic players in field goal percentage (and effective FG percentage) in pick-and-roll situations when he is the primary ball-handler (58.8 percent).
More interesting, he ranks second in the entire league in pick-and-roll FG percentage among players who have appeared in at least 40 games and attempted at least 30 shots out of the pick-and-roll.
Hezonja also is the Magic’s second best spot-up shooter behind Evan Fournier. He’s shooting 47.3 percent from the floor in these situations.
Just like we’ve seen with Aaron Gordon since he shifted back to the power forward spot, Hezonja is so much more athletic, agile and active than most fours around the league. Most opponents have a really hard time keeping up with him, which explains why he’s shooting 77.8 percent (14-of-18) so far this season when he cuts to the basket. He’s eluding defenders with ease, giving him a clear path to the basket on many occasions.
Hezonja’s shooting numbers have improved across the board from last season. One of the most appealing facets of Hezonja’s offensive repertoire is his ability to make shots from really deep. As recent as five years ago, a shot taken two or three feet behind the 3-point line was typically disparaged. Now, with Stephen Curry proving that making long range shots is a practiced skill and a true talent, more players are trying to extend their range even further because of how difficult it is to defend.
With that said, Hezonja has become one of the league’s most dangerous outside shooters because of his range. He’s one of only 22 players in the NBA this season shooting 40 percent or higher from 25-29 feet out with at least 100 attempts from this distance.
Check out a few plays from Hezonja during the Magic’s game against the Hornets: