Obviously this was a signing that none of us were expecting, mainly because Petrie said "Hey, we're not signing anyone" and then one day later we go ahead and sign someone. The perplexing thing is that although Mason is good, he is just one more player at a position we already have plenty of players. Instead of signing a backup to Spencer, we ended up signing another Swingman/Guard. Why?
Well let's take a look at the player himself through the use of advanced statistics (thanks to Basketball-reference.com)
Mason is listed at 6'5 and 222 lbs, and can play either the 3 or the 2. Looking at the Kings depth, this signing makes a lot more sense if we consider him only as a two, bump Cisco to the Starting lineup, and have Noc play a lot more 4 as JT's backup. This would put Mason as Martin's backup. This signing makes even more sense if a Nocioni trade is brewing that we have not yet heard of. But that's all speculation, so lets focus on what is fact, which is we just signed Desmond Mason.
It is interesting to note that the last two Kings signings have been players coming off of injuries, sort of reclamation projects. May filled a need as a big man, plus he's young and nobody's seen his full potential. Mason though, has been relatively healthy throughout his career, with only the last two marred by major injury. He's also on the tail-end of his career, with this year being his 10th in the league.
What does Mason do for us? Well he sure as hell can't shoot the ball, with a career three point percantage of 26% and having not hit a three pointer at all in the last three years. His free throw percentage is also pretty poor for a G/F, with a career average of 74% that has been steadily declining since 2004 when he averaged 80% (it went down to 68% in 05, 66% in 06, 65% in 07, and 54% last year).
Mason also doesn't particularly pass the ball well. He has a career 1.6:1.61 assist to turnover ratio, and his career turnover percentage is 11.9%, which is even worse when you consider his career usage rate is 20.2%.
Mason is athletic, and he can get to the basket, but he's aging and even that part of his game is weakening. Last year he had a career low in Offensive rating and a -1.0 offensive win share (win share is the number of wins produced because of a player. Offensive win share is number of wins produced because of offense).
Mason also doesn't seem to fit in with the new Kings toughness attitude, and has never been hailed as more than a decent defender. In fact the advanced stats would say that he was a poor defender, giving up more points on defense than what he produces on offense. His career Offensive Rating (Points produced per 100 possesions) is 102 while his career Defensive Rating (Points produced by the other team per 100 possessions) is 109. For instance, Kevin Martin is labeled as a poor defender, but he puts up so many points it doesn't really matter (his career offensive rating is 118, which is held back a lot by his limited minutes in his rookie year when he only had a 96 offensive rating) while his defensive rating is 111. Mason's defense has been described as solid from what I've read, and its mainly because of his freakish athleticism and that he's able to stay in front of his man. But he doesn't do anything exceptional on the defensive end of the floor and the stats don't support him.
Reading about Mason the person shows that he's a great guy to have in your locker room and is always active in the community's he's been, but I think the Kings need to acquire some talent first and foremost.
So yes, this signing perplexes me. I know Geoff has always liked this guy, and I remember reading the Sacramento Bee back in the 2000 NBA draft claiming that Mason was going to be the guy we selected, and reading about this high flyer I was excited, but Petrie opted to grab some Turkish kid out of nowhere instead. That Turkish kid probably ended up being the 2nd best pick in an otherwise crappy draft behind Michael Redd.
But this isn't 2000 when Mason had everything going for him. This is 2009, a year after Mason had surgery on his knee to remove bone chips.
Unless the Kings plan on moving Nocioni to be JT's backup, or have a trade brewing, this signing makes absolutely no sense to me. Perhaps they felt they needed some insurance for K-Mart? Mason and Evans do not compliment each other at all, unlike Martin and Evans. Perhaps they thought they could use a little more veteran leadership, and someone who can at least stick to his man if the young guys aren't playing that good of defense? Did the Maloofs think Mason could pull off some highlight reel dunks and get a few more butts into seats? I don't really know. All I know is this signing doesn't really make sense to me without at least some other move.