It’s Time for Frank Vogel to Unleash Mario Hezonja

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HOLLYWOOD, CA - JANUARY 09: (L-R) NBA Players of Orlando Magic Mario Hezonja, C.J. Wilcox and Elfrid Payton attend the premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures' 'Live By Night' at TCL Chinese Theatre on January 9, 2017 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Barry King/Getty Images)

On Tuesday night, the Orlando Magic suffered a 100-92 defeat at the hands of the Chicago Bulls. Despite the defeat only coming by eight points, the manner in which the Magic lost the game sent fans into a frenzy. The Magic were poor on both ends of the floor throughout the contest. Much of that can be blamed on the injuries that have plagued their backcourt.

With D.J. Augustin and Jodie Meeks out, as well as star Evan Fournier, the Magic have had to shift much of the workload onto their starting point guard, Elfrid Payton. Although Payton has played well recently, it is obvious that he needs help. This is why there’s been growing animosity among fans towards the Magic’s head coach, Frank Vogel. The source of the frustrations is Mario Hezonja‘s playing time – or rather, lack thereof.

It’s Time for Frank Vogel to Unleash Mario Hezonja

Vogel has always made his position on Hezonja clear, stating repeatedly that the Croatian will get his opportunity. However, when the Magic coach made the conscious decision to start 6’9″ Jeff Green at shooting guard over Hezonja on Tuesday night, Magic fans responded somewhat aggressively towards Vogel’s decision. Most were angry and frustrated with the choice to start Green.

Filling in for Injuries

When the Magic lost Meeks to a thumb injury last week, many assumed that Hezonja’s role would grow. Some even suggested that he would start until either Fournier or Meeks returns. However, this has not been the case. Though Hezonja has seen an increase in minutes, players such as C.J. Watson and Green have been given the nod ahead of him. This has left many Magic fans frustrated, as the former fifth overall pick clearly hasn’t had the opportunity to help the team. While Hezonja may not be a long-term solution for the Magic, he’s an alternative option for a team that has won only two of its last ten games.

Stellar Shooting

For the majority of the season, the Magic have struggled on both ends of the floor. They currently rank 21st in defensive rating and 29th offensively. Orlando clearly needs to improve somehow on both ends. Although Hezonja is not known for his defensive play, the 6’8″ swingman has shown potential as a deadly shooter for stretches of his young career. He’s been inconsistent, but you can chalk that up to a lack of playing time more than anything.

Making Adjustments

Perhaps the most difficult thing that Vogel will have to consider about Hezonja’s role in the rotation will be his lack of action this year. Hezonja sat on the bench for a lengthy period earlier in the season and his numbers have suffered as a result. Averaging just 9.5 minutes per game this year, Hezonja has seen a drop in production as he struggles to develop consistency. He’s averaging just 3.4 points per game and shooting only 34.1 percent from the floor. Vogel will have to hope that Hezonja’s numbers will improve, should he see a more prominent role.

Final Word

The Magic have struggled mightily of late and injuries have been a big part of that. With no time frame for Meeks and Fournier to return, and playoff hopes seemingly slipping away from the Magic, there Frank Vogel has every reason to roll the dice on Hezonja and move him into the starting lineup.

 

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