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Wing | 6’8 | 200 | Barcelona
Projected: Mid Lottery
Best Case: Peja Stojakovic
Most Likely: Danilo Gallinari
Worst Case: Gerald Green
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Wing | 6’6 | 205 | Kentucky
Projected: Mid Lottery
Best Case: Klay Thompson
Most Likely: Wes Matthews
Worst Case: Brandon Rush
These two come from different continents and have played vastly different types of competition but both are primarily shooters who played as scorers off the bench for dominant teams. Hezonja’s upside comes from his physical talents and attitude, while Booker’s comes from his age (as the youngest player in the draft) and intelligence. Both will be getting looks from any lottery team in need of shooting, as Hezonja and Booker are the two perimeter snipers at this end of the draft. Both hit at a good clip on extremely high per minute volumes. Hezonja took 7.5 threes per 40 minutes, hitting at 38%, while Booker averaged 7 per 40 at 41%. Transitioning from the international line rather than the college line should help Hezonja (similar to how easily Rudy Fernandez took to NBA range threes) but with the great form and shooters touch they have, I think both will be high level NBA shooters. Booker probably in the off-screen, catch and shoot, step-back mold of a Wes Matthews, Hezonja more in the unconscious, any deep shot is worth taking style of a Stojakovic.
Defensively, there is a stark contrast between these two prospects. Booker is smart, mobile and works hard but is limited by his lack of length and explosiveness when it comes to the really tough covers, which will likely make him a solid team defender but perhaps not an exceptional individual defender (although the same was said of Klay Thompson coming out of college). Hezonja on the other hand has all the tools required and can look a world-beater on the defensive end, but his effort wavers depending on his offense while his fundamentals and understanding of team defensive concepts still require some work. Booker is the surer bet defensively but Hezonja is the guy who might make All-Defense teams one day.
Hezonja brings with him a confidence that borders on arrogance, likely due to his being the biggest teenage star in European basketball since Rubio. This offers benefits in terms of his self-belief, fearlessness on the court and willingness to explore the depths of his considerable talents. The drawbacks are obvious – he occasionally rubs team-mates the wrong way and clashes with coaches, displays awful shot selection at times and can look to take over even if he’s not the best player on the floor. By contrast, Booker seems like the type more happy with being a cog in the machine rather than looking to stand out, which may appeal to lottery teams with stars already in place and playoff aspirations in the short-term. All things being equal, I’d take the guy who believes he has greatness in him and is bullish pursuing that over one who is satisfied being a high-level role player. It is certainly something teams will have to weigh up when considering whether to add one of these two.
Hezonja and Booker feel like two more trade up options that don’t necessarily fit for the Blazers. I love Hezonja’s approach to the game and believe he has the talent to be the best player from this draft but the cost of getting him would leave us depleted enough that there would be immediate pressure for him to produce. Booker falls more into the ‘cost not worth the benefit’ camp, as he is likely to be a solid pro but doesn’t stand out to me over the likes of Justin Anderson, who appears to be available in our draft range. Neither are guys to necessarily steer clear of if the right opportunity presents itself but I just don’t see the fit being right for Olshey and co. this time around.