Nov 25, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic guard Mario Hezonja (8) passes the ball during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
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Mario Hezonja and Willie Cauley-Stein have struggled to find their footing through a season and a half of their NBA careers, but are they busts?
Although only in their second NBA season, both Mario Hezonja and Willie Cauley-Stein have not shown a great deal of improvement in their individual games with the Orlando Magic and Sacramento Kings, respectively.
Both lottery picks with high expectations, it seemed as though they would both make good pieces for their respective organizations.
A somewhat uneventful rookie years, followed by an extremely slow start to their sophomore campaigns, here is a closer look at the former top 10 picks.
Nov 5, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic guard Mario Hezonja (8) dunks against the Washington Wizards during the second half at Amway Center. Orlando Magic defeated the Washington Wizards 88-86. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
The Orlando Magic selected Hezonja with the fifth overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. Yes, they passed up on Devin Booker. Oh, how you must feel for Magic fans.
Coming into the league, three-point shooting was supposed to be a big part of his repertoire. However, this season he is shooting 19 percent from three-point range and 32 percent for his young career.
Even his field goal percentage this year is a mere 32 percent. Evan Fournier has taken over the shooting duties for the Magic, and Aaron Gordon is taking away Hezonja’s minutes at the 3 (even though Gordon is a natural 4). Hezonja just hasn’t fit well in Frank Vogel’s offense, but also hasn’t shown that he has made a substantial improvement from his rookie season.
With the fifth pick, he was considered to be a wing scorer for the future in the Magic organization. The 21-year-old obviously has a lot of basketball left in the tank, but will it be with the Orlando Magic?
Coming out of Kentucky, Willie Cauley-Stein was always talked about as a sensational defender. A 7-footer that could guard all five positions on the court. He even guarded Jerian Grant of Notre Dame the full length of the court in the final minutes of their elite eight game two years ago.
Despite his defensive prowess and versatility on that end, his offensive abilities are practically nonexistent. Yes, they are that terrible. Don’t be fooled or misled by his career 56 percent field goal percentage.
When you contribute offensively with dunks and put-backs, your field goal percentage should be relatively high. He has virtually no offensive moves, and doesn’t have any shooting abilities. Cauley-Stein is 35-54 from less than 5 feet this year. Then, it goes downhill. He is 3-9 between 5-9 feet, 1-6 between 10-14 feet, and 0-3 between 15-19 feet.
Yes, he is 1-1 from between 20-24 feet. I imagine that shot was a bank off the glass with less than a second left on the shot clock….Needless to say, he is not a good offensive player, and essentially doesn’t offer much.
So when people ask what happened to Cauley-Stein, what do they mean? He was always this type of player. He didn’t warrant the sixth overall pick in the 2015 draft. He never had an offensive skill set, and we still are yet to see one.
The Kings passed up on Myles Turner, and even his Kentucky teammate, Trey Lyles, both players had way more upside. Cauley-Stein may have some value on the defensive end, but that doesn’t make up for his poor offensive skill set.
Dec 10, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Sacramento Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein (00) takes a break while working out with special gloves prior to their game against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports
For both these players, there’s a bit of uncertainty when it comes to their respective NBA futures. Interestingly enough, both of these players have been subject to trade rumors already in their young careers.
Even though that’s not a great experience to go through, especially this early in their careers, a trade wouldn’t exactly be the worst thing in the world for Mario Hezonja and Willie Cauley-Stein.
If the Magic and Kings can’t find ways to get them on the court, or at the very least find ways to continue each of their developments, then perhaps it might be time for a change of scenery of each of these sophomores.