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The intriguing dilemma surrounding Yogi Ferrell

Projected as the third point guard, should Yogi be used as more than an emergency plan?

Kimani Okearah

After the Sacramento Kings finalized the signing of Cory Joseph to a three-year, $37.2 million contract, a decision needed to be made regarding the third point guard spot.

Frank Mason held the backup point guard role after George Hill was dealt his rookie year and became focused on improving in year two following a bumpy start. When Yogi Ferrell was inked to a two-year deal that following season, a competition arose for Mason to retain the secondary role behind the evolving De’Aaron Fox.

If you recall, Ferrell actually started at shooting guard alongside Fox for the first two regular season games and played significant minutes. Mason remained the backup point guard as Ferrell drifted off to the bench after some weak performances. But things weren’t flowing smoothly for Mason either, as his impotence to create quality offense became evident; He often failed to make the right play, passing on open threes to drive to the rim with minimal success and just wasn’t providing a positive spark on either end of the floor.

Still, Dave Joerger sustained his faith in Mason for an unnecessary prolonged time but eventually tried his hand with Ferrell - and it succeeded. While he didn’t catalyze a pesky defensive presence, Ferrell was clearly an upgrade over Mason on both ends of the floor.

His 6’0” frame was an inch taller than Mason, which complicated each of their abilities to provide size on defense but Ferrell’s lateral quickness and aggressiveness offered him the advantage. Offensively, Ferrell’s play unambiguously outweighed his counterpart and although their numbers exhibit reasonably similar production, the eye test certainly clashes that.

Ferrell presented himself calmly with the ability to complement Bogdan Bogdanovic as a relatively balanced combo guard. He didn’t occupy the ball excessively to the point where Bogi couldn’t have control but evinced himself to also maneuver through defenses, dribbling to his mid-range spots and supplying a pleasant ability to knock down three pointers at a 36 percent clip. Comparing this number to Mason’s unsatisfactory clip stimulated Yogi’s stock, with the second-year Kansas guard only connecting on a paltry 21.9 percent of deep shots. Ferrell also grasped a superior free throw percentage despite minimal volume, but his 89.6 percent rate from the charity stripe ranked as one of the premier marks for a team struggling to hit free throws consistently.

Ferrell indisputably earned the backup point guard role as he topped Mason in virtually every major category, but the Kings understandably still needed to ink a fresh upgrade to play behind Fox. Eventually the Kings cut ties with Mason (who later signed a two-way deal with Milwaukee), situating the potential point guard depth with a Fox-Joseph-Ferrell trio.

Possessing Yogi at his inexpensive price and offensive production for a third string role is patently a stable option, but the Kings shouldn’t utilize him as an emergency plan the way Mason ultimately lingered into.

The current depth chart reasonably situates Joseph as the riling defensive hound behind Fox (and the hefty money applied to acquire him), but that shouldn’t dictate whether or not Yogi sees the floor. Another thought that sparked this article originated from the Q&A piece on Joseph, where it was mentioned that Joseph, who has played 82 games in back-to-back seasons, could benefit from load management especially as he accustoms to an extensive jump in pace with the Kings.

There’s minimal reason to be skeptical about Joseph’s competence to adjust accordingly but it’s still worth keeping an eye on and that’s why it’s convenient to have Ferrell.

One reason why Yogi functioned adequately off the bench was combining with Bogdanovic who performed well with a combo guard as mentioned before. Ferrell could play off the ball and grant Bogi the freedom to run the offense.

The Yogi-Bogi duo enjoyed success despite stunted volume but Ferrell was assisted by Bogi 17 times and while that appears minuscule, the next highest distributor to Ferrell went to both Corey Brewer and Harry Giles (tied with six).

In the clip, the two guards run an interesting pick play that involves Bogi absorbing two defenders including Ferrell’s while Ferrell leaks out to the right corner. Bogi’s crafty dribbling takes him to the paint where he realizes that Ferrell is open for a three, kicks it out and watches him convert an essential basket.

It was additionally solid awareness to get Yogi where he most succeeds from deep - the right corner. Ferrell hit 9 of 17 right corner threes, good for essentially 53 percent. Again, it’s low volume but you take it nonetheless.

Differentiating the three point percentages of Ferrell and newcomer Joseph, the former holds a four percentage point advantage and also eclipses Joseph as a shot creator. And while Joseph has close edges in assists per game and AST%, you can never have enough shooters on your team in a league where that skill is becoming a necessity.

Whether he attempted a three point or mid-range jump shot, he seemed to fancy pulling up from his spots before defenses could get set. Ferrell encountered some great moments in matchups against Minnesota and often felt confident with his shot against them as he does in this clip.

Coming up after a basket by the opposition, both teams are situating themselves in their own half-court set but Yogi unfolds an unrelated idea. He runs to where he wants to be and simply lets it fly, catching the defense off guard for a big three. Yogi’s pull-up numbers of 42.2 percent overall and 34.9 percent from three exceeds Joseph’s maladroit rates of 38 percent overall and 16.1 percent from deep.

He notably utilized his quick feet and speed to push the tempo, not eradicating the presence Fox left after a substitution. Since Joseph is coming off of a season where his team lacked a fast pace, Ferrell currently has the edge in that department as we await to see how Joseph translates.

After Denver guard Gary Harris receives the ball heading towards the low block, Ferrell locks his eyes on the ball, seeing an opportunity for a steal. He runs towards it, snagging the ball away from Harris and employs his longitudinal speed for a transition three.

Even though Ferrell’s 36 percent clip isn’t completely menacing, it does forge defenders to respect his shot and presents the Kings with a shooter off the bench you don’t want open.

Yogi additionally showed a solid mid-range game regarding his pull-up jumper, where he shot 46.6 percent from on the season. Willie Cauley-Stein comes out to the top of the key for a screen on Stephen Curry, who notices it and instead of chasing the ball-handler, he turns around to prevent an attainable lob to Cauley-Stein or a kick out to Bogi who leaked out behind the arc.

Draymond Green gets stuck in a tough position as Andre Iguodala was a step late in switching onto Willie, leaving Green too many feet away from Ferrell as he aimed to halt the Willie lob. Yogi caps off what he needed to do after creating the space off a defensive switching error and hits the pull-up shot.

What Joseph lacks on offense, Ferrell covers it up. What Ferrell lacks on defense, Joseph covers it up. Ferrell isn’t unplayable in the sense that he’s a pure liability on both ends of the court. He can give you good minutes as a low usage player who can provide respectable off ball offense as a combo guard despite limitations concerning size and defense - that’s why the Kings signed Joseph.

This dilemma surrounding Yogi props the Kings at an intriguing place. Keeping Ferrell over Mason was the right move, providing the team with three competent guards capable of handling the point.

Sure, you should fully expect Fox and Joseph to carry the majority of the minutes at the 1, but the Kings can’t forget that they possess a third point who can service quality minutes instead of being an emergency or (a phrase I don’t like) “garbage time” alternative - and his name is YOGI... you shout the rest.