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Former Fifth Overall Pick Eyeing Return To NBA

Mario Hezonja is considering a return to the NBA.

There was a lot of hype surrounding Mario Hezonja after he was selected fifth overall in the 2015 NBA Draft by the Orlando Magic. The Croatian was unable to reach expectations, and many believe he flamed out of the league after just five seasons.

Now 29 years old, Hezonja last played in the NBA during the 2019-20 season. Could a return to the league be in the cards for the 2024-25 season?

Former Fifth Overall Pick Eyeing Return To NBA

Hezonja Potentially Could Return To NBA

On Marc Stein’s Substack (subscription required), Stein brought up that Hezonja is a free agent to watch this offseason to possibly return to the NBA. The six-foot-eight forward has spent the past two seasons with Real Madrid in the EuroLeague. He had a successful two years there as Real Madrid won the EuroLeague in 2023 and was runner-up in 2024.

In 38 EuroLeague games in 2023-24, Hezonja posted averages of 13.5 points, 4.6 rebounds, 0.9 assists, and 1.0 steals in 23.3 minutes. He shot 47.5% from the field, 43.1% from three-point territory, and an excellent 92.1% from the free-throw line. Notably, he was named to the All-EuroLeague Second Team.

This would be the second straight offseason that a former fifth overall pick in the NBA Draft returns to the NBA if Hezonja ends up getting signed. The fifth selection in the 2014 NBA Draft was Dante Exum. The 28-year-old guard last played six games for the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2020-21 prior to joining the Dallas Mavericks this season. He spent his two seasons away from the NBA playing in the EuroLeague. Exum has been a key reserve much of the season for a Dallas team currently in the NBA Finals.

An Uneventful NBA Career Thus Far From Mario Hezonja

Hezonja has played five seasons in the NBA. The first three came with the Magic from 2015-16 to 2017-18. In 2018-19, he donned the New York Knicks jersey. The last time he appeared in the NBA was in 2019-20. He was a member of the Portland Trail Blazers where he reached the postseason for the first time.

His most productive scoring season came in 2017-18, his last season with the Magic. That season, he averaged 9.6 points. Nearly half of his career starts (30 of 69) came during that season, and he averaged a career-high of 22.1 minutes.

Hezonja’s most memorable moment in the NBA probably came during his one season with the Knicks. After a huge New York run to end the game, Hezonja blocked a game-winning attempt by LeBron James to secure the Knicks win over the Los Angeles Lakers. With the Knicks, Hezonja also had his career-best scoring outing of 30 points against the Washington Wizards.

In 330 career regular season games, Hezonja has averaged 6.9 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 1.3 assists. His shooting splits are .417/.319/.812. If a team were to sign him, they would be hopeful that the three-point shooting he displayed with Real Madrid would continue.


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