Mario Hezonja is showing off his play-making skills during the Knicks final games of the season. The team handed him starting point guard duties over the weekend and he has looked like a completely different player than the one who registered just a single 20-point game prior to his trial as New York’s floor general.
If the Knicks had allowed Hezonja more play-making responsibilities, perhaps the former No. 5 overall pick would be on a different team. Several contenders reached out to the Knicks about trading for Hezonja at the trade deadline, a source tells Marc Berman of the New York Post. No deal materialized and it’s unclear what the Knicks wanted in return for the Croatia native. Had the point guard experiment occurred earlier this season, the interest in Super Mario may have been more intense.
“In terms of involving them and making them better, yes [I wish I played point guard more],” Hezonja said. “But then we have to understand if I get the ball, where is [Emmanuel Mudiay] going to be, where is [Dennis Smith] going to be? They have to play, too.”
The Knicks’ point guard situation will be a major storyline this season. The team reportedly plans to shop Frank Ntilikina. Coach David Fizdale hinted that Mudiay could be playing elsewhere and while Smith was the centerpiece of the Kristaps Porzingis deal, the team would have no problem shifting him to a different role if a top target such as Kyrie Irving or Kemba Walker signs with the franchise.
Hezonja, who will be a free agent at the end of the season, would welcome a return to the Knicks. a league executive tells Bondy that the 24-year-old is probably looking at a contract worth part of the mid-level exception on the open market. The 2019/20 MLEs are projected to come in at $9.246MM (standard), $5.711MM (taxpayer), and $4.76MM (room). Hezonja made $6.5MM this past season.
“I’m ready to talk to [owner James] Dolan,” Hezonja said. “If he gives me that call on July 1, we’re done.”