I don't get it. The risk is small, sure -- it's been reported that Desmond Mason is a King on a one-year minimum salary contract. Mason will earn $1.187 million (assuming the contract is fully guaranteed), but the league will pay $362,000 of that, so the Kings will actually put out $825,000.
But just because a move has little risk doesn't make it a good or acceptable move. There's opportunity cost beyond the minimal free agent dollars. That's a roster spot he's soaking up. A roster spot that could go to a D-League player or undrafted rookie prospect. A roster spot that could go to a back-up center. A roster spot that could go to Chris Bosh's best friend from third grade.
A young D-League player or undrafted rookie prospect -- and I assume Chris Bosh's best friend from the third grade -- could be sent to Reno. It's amazing, the D-League. It allows you to get kids playing time without pissing off your veterans, it lets you look for diamonds in the proverbial rough. Is Desmond Mason, at age 32, a likely candidate to become a diamond in the rough? I don't think so. Neil Paine doesn't think so. I daresay Desmond Mason probably doesn't think so. Players who depend on their athleticism don't typically get better in their mid-30s.
Mason is said to be a great guy who works hard and sets a good example. In Oklahoma City last season, he became a fan favorite (he's a local product) and a mentor to Kevin Durant and Jeff Green. And guess what? Those warm fuzzy feelings were not enough to convince the Thunder to keep Mason. For some strange reason, the Thunder remains committed to ... what, building with youth? What a terrible idea.
The Kings are worse than the Thunder, have more developing wings in desperate need of court time than the Thunder and are in worse financial shape than the Thunder. Yet the Thunder passes on the local favorite, while the Kings sign him. The intangible benefits of Mason in OKC greatly outweigh those he'll offer in Sacramento (where he has played with none of the players previously). Yet, here he is, taking up a roster spot. And what's the best-case scenario? Dez magically imparts the infinite wisdom of nine mediocre NBA seasons onto the youngsters, immediately making them All-NBA candidates? Mason teaches Donte Greene this one really sick dunk which will definitely turn some heads during a pre-game warm-up at Staples Center?
Seriously, what good can come of it? If he plays, one of the kids (who desperately need on-court seasoning) isn't playing. He's not ever going to play so well as to change the fortunes of the team. If he's not playing, he's wasting a roster spot. There is no positive result, is there?
Sean May and Desmond Mason will draw the same amount of cash from the Kings this season (though Mason will make more in total because of the league's contribution). May is young and his numbers are good -- he's been a victim of injury and himself. Mason is old and his numbers are bad -- he's been a victim of getting old and never being terribly good by NBA standards to begin with. This team needs more reclamation projects like the former, and less like the latter. If you're going to sign a player for the sole benefit of chemistry and leadership, re-sign Bobby Jackson!
The only connection Mason has to this franchise beyond being a previous Geoff Petrie target is that he played 15 games under Paul Westphal in Seattle. If this move is Westphal-driven, it does not speak well to the coach's confidence in Donte Greene and Omri Casspi. And as a fan who would much rather see the future of the franchise learn through its mistakes rather than watch a 33-year-old make the same mistakes, I think that stinks.