David Pick, International Hoops Insider for Bleacher Report, wrote an interesting profile on Croatian prospect Mario Hezonja yesterday. There is a lot of good stuff in there, including what kind of suit he’s going to wear if he can make it back to New York in time for Thursdays draft, who his idol was growing up, and why his playing time with Barcelona has been so inconsistent.
Of immediate interest to the Sacramento Kings and their fans is the fact that former Sacramento King forward Peja Stojakovic will "serve as Hezonja’s acting NBA mentor". What that position actually requires from Stojakovic remains to be seen, but we know how close Vlade Divac and Peja are. It’s easy to see how and why Mario Hezonja could be a Sacramento King by tomorrow night.
On the Kings interest in Hezonja, David Pick said the following –
Sacramento, which holds the No. 6 pick, is also open to landing the Croatian wingman.
In mid-December, following Stojakovic's jersey retirement ceremony in Sacramento, newly christened Kings official Vlade Divac and Senior Vice President of International Basketball Operations for the NBA Kim Bohuny were dining at a local restaurant.
Suddenly, highlights of Hezonja splashed over TV screens, prompting Divac to say he'd take the Croatian wing if Hezonja wants to come to Sacramento.
I’m not going to hold Vlade Divac to something he said at dinner six months ago, especially when you consider the fact that the Kings didn’t even hire Divac until March, but that story is worth sharing. If nothing else, it tells us that Divac has been scouting Mario Hezonja for quite some time, and has had people relaying information about Hezonja to him for even longer.
DraftExpress was the first reputable draft source to choose Mario Hezonja for the Sacramento Kings at #6. ESPN's Chad Ford still has Emmanuel Mudiay going to the Kings 6th, but under his scenario Mario Hezonja went to the Orlando Magic 5th.
All of these rumors are starting to tie together with a neat little bow if you decide to look at them a certain way.
George Karl had previously said that he didn’t foresee any rookie playing 30 minutes per game for the team this season.
The Kings have made Nik Stauskas available, which could suggest the addition of another guard to fill that spot. Yes, Hezonja can swing over to small forward in the right lineup, but primarily, for now, he’s probably better off at guard.
The Kings are apparently interested in JaVale McGee, and Willie Cauley-Stein is starting to slide down most mock drafts, if you want to believe that stuff. If Karl isn’t planning on playing a rookie more than 15 or so minutes anyway, he may prefer filling the backup center, rim protector role with McGee, allowing the Kings to draft Hezonja, and subsequently trade Stauskas to fill a need elsewhere.
Relying on JaVale McGee for anything is a risky proposition. Maybe, ideally, if this scenario goes down, Kosta Koufos is the backup center. We know the Kings have had plenty of interest in Koufos, but he’s going to cost considerably more than McGee.
For the record, I’d still prefer Willie Cauley-Stein at #6 to any of this.
We’ll know a lot more by tomorrow night.