Last June, our Front Office invested their first and last draft picks on polar opposite point guards. De’Aaron Fox, the lightning quick freshman phenom, was quickly named the savior of the franchise as the fifth overall selection. Twenty-nine players later, sharp-shooting senior, Frank Mason III, was taken in the second round.
Although Mason was able to successfully lead a Kansas team for four years, his value to NBA teams was negatively impacted because of his age as well as his vertically challenged stature. His projected ceiling was that of a backup guard. Even though the Kings fell in love with his intangibles and ability to knock it down from deep, his place in the league was all but guaranteed.
That opportunity to find success as a professional took another hit less than two weeks later. Vlade Divac signed George Hill to a 3 year, $57 million deal and the available minutes for the Kings’ point guards seemed to be all but filled. A $20 million successful veteran and a franchise cornerstone stood in Mason’s way of proving himself to Dave Joerger and the rest of the coaching staff.
To start the year, those roadblocks fully displayed themselves. In Frank’s first 13 games, he saw DNP-CDs seven times, while only playing significant minutes in three of those contests. When Mason did find himself on the hardwood, he charged the rim at every opportunity. As a second rounder early in his rookie season, he was ballsy enough to take 37 shots in his first 81 minutes played, almost an attempt every two minutes. On a team full of passive rookies and inexplicably gun shy veterans, save for Zach Randolph, Mason took full advantage of every minute presented to him.
Aggression equaled opportunity.
That mentality of attacking at all times has stayed with Frank throughout the entire year. Even though he’s earned the trust of the organization as the season has progressed and is now coming to a close, Mason continues to shoot at almost every possible chance. He’s now played 959 minutes and has taken 422 shot attempts, or a shot every 2.3 minutes on the floor.
Mason’s aggression isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, but his primary method of attack has hurt both his efficiency and effectiveness. Currently, the former Kansas star is second on the team in drives per game (7.3), even though he’s only 11th in minutes played. While it’s unsurprising that a point guard would be in the upper tier of attempts at the rim, on a per-36 minute basis he would be in the top-30 in the entire NBA in that category.
Unfortunately, his constant charges into the lane aren’t creating opportunistic offensive possibilities. Although Mason is in the upper echelon in drives per minute in the lane, he’s one of the absolute least effective in producing points. Among qualified players, Frank is the third worst shooter in the league in the restricted area of the floor:
|Frank Mason III||43.70%||119|
That number drops even further when tracking drives exclusively, all the way down to 33.3%. It’s not as though Frank is being blocked left and right either, as he’s only been rejected 23 times on the season. He’s simply missing: a lot.
His effectiveness as passer also plummets when he’s in the lane. While Mason hasn’t turned the ball over excessively when driving the lane, only coughing it up 17 times on the year, he also isn’t in tune with the philosophy of sharing is caring either. On 367 drives this season, Frank has only recorded 40 assists, or a paltry assist percentage of 10.9%.
The offensive weapon that he’s deploying most often is his least effective method of contributing to the team.
The goods news is that Mason isn’t a terrible player or a G-League scrub. He’s just not taking full advantage of his skill set.
One of the reasons Frank was an attractive option in the second round was his lights-out shooting in college. As a senior he shot 47% from 3-point range on almost five attempts per game. While that number was never going to translate perfectly to the longer NBA shot, it’s clear that he can find success from beyond the arc.
On the season, Mason is knocking down a respectable 36% from deep, and he’s able to sink shots in just about every situation. Oddly enough, he’s a better pull-up shooter from deep (38%) than as a catch-and-shoot option (32%). The issue isn’t his lack of ability to shoot the ball, it’s his lack of attempts. Even though he’s a proven shooter, Frank is only taking 1.7 shots from deep per game. If he can increase his opportunities from that range, his effectiveness and efficiency will naturally increase as well.
Another area in which Mason can better utilize his abilities is in his passing game. He’s in a virtual tie with De’Aaron Fox in assist percentage at 23.5%, and has a team-leading 2.35 assist to turnover ration, but his tunnel vision at the rim has limited another one of his strengths. As a point guard who struggles to score in the restricted area and who has a severe height disadvantage, the urgency to kick out to a shooter against collapsing defenses needs to dramatically increase.
Although his aggressive nature on the court is part of what made him attractive as a prospect in the first place, and played a main part in creating an opportunity for Frank to prove himself, it’s time for Mason to adjust his game to become a more efficient version of himself. Now that he’s solidified his standing in the NBA, our rookie point guard must tone down his shots at this rim, share the rock when he gets in trouble in the key, and stop passing up open shots from deep to take a tougher shot in the lane.