The NBA Draft is an interesting spectacle. We hype up a bunch of freshmen that are no where near their ceiling, only to forget some of college’s biggest stars in the process. Frank Mason, who won National Player of the Year in his fourth season at Kansas, is a prime example of that.
The Kings drafted Mason 34th, capping off an impressive class for a team that was putting an emphasis on culture. Even their first round draftees – De’Aaron Fox, Harry Giles and Justin Jackson – were all high-character players whose attitudes should bode well as the team tries to rebuild.
Mason, however, was the most accomplished individual in that group, spending three seasons as the starting point guard for a collegiate powerhouse. It wasn’t until his senior year that he broke out on draft boards, but his perimeter scoring and playmaking chops were always evident.
Even as he misses time with injury, we’re starting the get the sense that Sacramento got a steal in the second round.
It’s odd, because I saw this coming but, at the same time, failed to recognize Mason’s value. I always praised Mason as somebody who had a spot in the league and could be a rotation player for years, but actually had him lower than 34th on my board.
In many ways, that’s flawed logic on my part. Outside of the lottery, you’re looking for reliable production more than anything else. You’re shooting for players who can contribute on an everyday basis, not the next superstar who can lead your franchise in scoring.
That’s especially true with second rounder’s, as most of them don’t pan out. If Mason was always somebody who could step in and contribute right away, there isn’t much reasoning – outside of upside, which can be a shaky argument – against giving Mason a first round grade.
Mason’s stats don’t jump off the page, but you have to take into consideration how inconsistent his role has been. George Hill was a primary option earlier in the season while the Kings have made developing Fox a priority. Outside of games in which Hill or Fox have dealt with injury problems, Mason hasn’t always gotten extended playing time.
Inconsistency with his role doesn’t take away from the promising flashes we saw, especially in December. He doesn’t have the same ceiling as your typical lottery point guard (Fox), but brings a level of polish that few rookie guards possess.
He’s shooting 41.9 percent from deep, while his strength and craft allows him to finish through traffic around the basket. He’s also an effective pick-and-roll weapon, whether it be hitting a pull-up jumper, taking it to the rim, or making the correct reads as a passer.
He’s the kind of spark-plug scorer and initiator who, off the bench, can hold a lot of value. We’ve seen this storyline before as well. College stars who, despite being older than their freshmen counterparts, enter the league and produce at a high level in their given niche.
Malcolm Brogdon is the best example of that, spending four years at Virginia before winning Rookie of the Year in Milwaukee. He was able to play quality defense and shoot at a rate well above the league average, something a lot of rookies struggle with. Add in his chops as a secondary playmaker, and the Bucks got an ideal accompaniment to Giannis Antetokounmpo long term.
Mason isn’t on Brogdon’s level, but the general sentiment is the same. Sacramento is still working out the whole George Hill fiasco, but it’s more than possible for Mason to be the backup to De’Aaron Fox long term.
Teams don’t normally nail an entire position on their depth chart in just one draft class. The Kings might have done just that.