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2015 NBA Draft: Vlade Divac Wants Mario Hezonja?

The 2015 NBA Draft is just eight days away, and the fine folks over at DraftExpress just released their latest mock draft. They certainly gave us something to talk about.

They have the Sacramento Kings selecting Croatian guard/forward Mario Hezonja with the 6th overall pick, and it’s worth noting that both Justise Winslow and Emmanual Mudiay were still on the board.

Via DraftExpress

Vlade Divac, now the top decision maker in Sacramento, took a while to come back from the adidas EuroCamp in Treviso, electing to spend more time in Europe. Having seen little to nothing of any of the American prospects, Croatian Mario Hezonja is rumored to be the player he's currently most comfortable with, aided greatly by his deep connections in the Balkan region. Hezonja won't be done playing for Barcelona until after the draft, but there is still some uncertainty about who exactly will be making the pick here.

There is a lot to unpack here. Lets start from the top.

Vlade Divac spent more time in Treviso scouting international talent. We didn’t know this before, and we don’t necessarily know what ‘more time’ means, but hey, that is sort of interesting.

I have to disagree to a certain extent with the notion that Divac saw "little to nothing" of the American prospects. That sounds preposterous to me. It’s incredibly easy for NBA executives to get college game tape, and if Divac hasn’t studied up on the American prospects yet, than the Kings are in trouble. I can’t buy that one.

If that point had more to do with ‘in person’ scouting, it would make more sense. It’s entirely possibly Divac didn’t attend any Kentucky games this season, but that shouldn’t, couldn’t, or wouldn’t detract him from selecting, say, Karl Towns if the Kings landed the first overall pick.

Vlade is comfortable with Hezonja. That sounds believable. I’m not going to pretend like I know what kind of relationship they have, but if a reputable source like DraftExpress reports that Divac is comfortable with Hezonja, whatever that actually means, I’m not going to question it. It wouldn’t surprise me if Divac has scouted Hezonja more than any other prospect, or if Divac has spent more 1 on 1 time with Hezonja than any other prospect. All of that adds up.

Of course, they had to throw in one more jab at the Kings by extending the ‘we don’t know who is in charge!’ narrative. That’s fine. Do what you have to do.

We’ve been told countless times by countless members of the Kings front office, coaching staff, and ownership group that Vlade Divac is in charge. This is Vlade Divac’s draft pick. I’m sure he’ll make it using the input of his staff, but if this pick is a success, Divac will get the credit, and if this pick is a bust, Divac will get the criticism.

Now that we’ve spent way too much time unpacking one quote from a 60 pick mock draft, does Hezonja even make sense for the Kings at 6?

I don’t think we can answer that with any certainty.

The fit is questionable at best. The Kings drafted Ben McLemore two years ago, and Nik Stauskas last year. Trying to sell your fan base on a drafted shooting guard for the third straight year isn’t going to be easy.

In Hezonja’s defense, he is sort of a mix between both Ben McLemore and Nik Stauskas. He isn’t the athlete McLemore is, but he is a better athlete than Stauskas, and like Nik, Hezonja has a much steadier handle than Ben, and a more versatile offensive skill set. Hezonja also shares McLemore and Stauskas’ defensive question marks, but I’d say he’s a more confident basketball player than either of them.

If you tried to convince me that Hezonja is a better shooting guard prospect than McLemore or Stauskas, I’d probably agree with you. From that standpoint, you could argue that Hezonja is worth drafting if you really believe in his ability to reach his potential.

You’d have to trade Ben McLemore or Nik Stauskas, if not both. I wouldn’t be surprised if that was in the Kings plans this offseason regardless of what they do on draft night, but selecting Hezonja makes that a no brainer. Someone has to go.

My interest in Hezonja is directly tied to Willie Cauley-Stein's availability. If Cauley-Stein is off the board, than the Kings are probably selecting from a pool of players that includes Mario Hezonja, Justise Winslow, and Emmanual Mudiay. I could argue for or against any one of those three, and I’d prefer Mudiay, personally, but Hezonja wouldn’t be a bad pick under those circumstances.