Orlando Magic decline Mario Hezonja’s fourth-year option

NBA


The Orlando Magic have declined the fourth-year option on forward Mario Hezonja, the fifth overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, league sources told ESPN.

Hezonja, 22, will become an unrestricted free agent in July. The option would’ve guaranteed Hezonja $5.2 million in the 2018-19 season.

The Magic had discussed several trade scenarios in the past several months, including conversations with the Sacramento Kings over the weekend, but no deal materialized, league sources said.

The decision to allow Hezonja to become a free agent next summer has a mutual benefit for a new front office who didn’t draft him, and a player and agent who are eager for a change of scenery and a chance to prove that Hezonja can justify the interest that exists for him elsewhere. The option still exists for Hezonja to re-sign with Orlando.

Orlando president Jeff Weltman has been careful about committing future money to the underachieving roster that he inherited, resisting rookie contract extensions for Elfrid Payton and Aaron Gordon. He has wanted to evaluate the roster this season, and make decisions later on the future of the group.

Hezonja, a native of Croatia, has averaged five points a game in two-plus seasons with Orlando. He was selected one pick behind New York Knicks star Kristaps Porzingis in the 2015 NBA Draft.

Making a run at Hezonja will become easier to do without that $5.2 million contract guaranteed for the 2018-19 season. His work ethic has been identified as a reason to believe he can still construct a career for himself in the NBA, and trade interest will likely continue for him through the February deadline.



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