Immediately after the New York Knicks drafted the “Real-Life Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm-Flailing Tube Man” Kristaps Porzingis, the Orlando Magic picked “Super” Mario Hezonja. Not only is it less of a mouthful to say his nickname, Hezonja has shown out as a possibly dominating force at the NBA’s Summer League while Porzingis has played OK, I guess (or a little better than anticipated) in Las Vegas. I can’t help but wonder, did the Knicks draft the wrong international prospect? Let’s take a look at how both rookies shined this summer:
As seen in the clips above, Hezonja has big-play ability and is absolutely fearless. The G/F can play above the rim and is absolutely deadly from the perimeter. He’s like a more athletic, better shooting Danilo Gallinari with more swag and confidence. Hezonja has shown flashes of brilliance and has what it takes to be a star in this league.
While Hezonja may be a better athlete and shooter than Porzingis, Slender Man has something Hezonja can’t develop (unless he has limb lengthening surgery like some midgets opt for in order to live more normal lives), and that’s elite size. Standing somewhere between 7’1″ and 7’3″ (depending on what broadcast you’re listening to or what blog you’re reading), Porzingis’ length makes him a problem for opposing shooters. He’s shown the ability to get his hands in the lane and has above-average handles for someone his size. When you have a player on your team who can block a shot and take it the length of the court for an easy dunk, that’s an asset.
When comparing the two, both guys pass the eye test, but Hezonja is the type of player that blows the curve. He’s more NBA ready right now than Porzingis, and could contribute at an elite level immediately given the opportunity. The Knicks drafted Porzingis for the future, though, and a player like Hezonja would likely get stabbed by Carmelo Anthony in the locker room. If New York wasn’t committed to Me7o, I’d say Hezonja would be the better draft pick over Porzingis going into the 2015-2016 season, but in the long-run the Knicks made the right choice. Porzingis seems willing to grind the next couple of years in order to improve physically and as a basketball player. As I mentioned in my previous article regarding Porzingis, he has the potential to become one of the top players in the NBA 5 years from now, and in New York’s situation you have to go with potential over immediate production.