The emergence of Isaiah Thomas, both from a height and a draft position perspective, surely impacts the scouting and drafting process for NBA General Managers. Teams want to be sure they don’t let a potential all-star slip through the cracks simply because of his height or some analytical measurement, and this is good news for players like Frank Mason III.
In terms of what NBA scouts look for, length and youth are probably at the top of the list for most. Frank Mason III comes into the NBA draft as a 6’0” Senior from Kansas at 23 years old and unsurprisingly, those identifiers seem to overshadow his college career accolades, which I will now list in a bullet format for additional dramatic effect. In his Senior year, Mason won the following honors:
- The John R. Wooden Award (essentially the college basketball MVP award)
- Associated Press Player of the Year
- 2017 Big 12 Player of the Year
- 2017 Citizen Naismith Trophy
- 2017 Oscar Robertson Trophy
- NABC Player of the Year
- USA Today Player of the Year
- Sporting News Player of the Year
- 2017 Bob Cousy Trophy (best college basketball point guard)
What NBA scouts tend to look for and what the New York Knicks tend to look for in prospects can at times be quite different. While it’s been daunting to constantly reference the triangle offense when evaluating prospects, it’s a necessary evil, and perhaps a double-edged sword in some regards. The future of the Knicks’ franchise is affected by their selections in every draft, and this upcoming draft is no different. Selecting a player based on your current offensive system is like buying a house because it’s near a cool restaurant. In a year, that restaurant could be out of business, and now you’re in crippling debt and borrowing money from your in-laws just to make it from month to insufferable month because you loved “Joe’s Tacos” or whatever.
On the other hand, Knicks fans have to be realistic, a player who fits the triangle has a distinct advantage to be drafted by the Knicks as opposed to a player who would likely struggle in it.
I have good news! Frank Mason III fits in either way.
Does Mason have any weaknesses? Of course. You expect any prospect to have some, and a player projected as a late second round pick has to be riddled with shortcomings, right? Well, not exactly...
Let’s discuss those first. Mason measured 5’11” without shoes and 6’0” with shoes at the NBA draft combine, per DraftExpress. That measurement is Mason’s biggest weakness. Some players who are 6’0” or shorter include the aforementioned Isaiah Thomas, Chris Paul, Yogi Ferrell, Kyle Lowry, and Patty Mills (the current player I would most likely compare Mason to).
Standing at 6’0” in shoes and having a 6’3.5” wingspan, what could Mason really do to quell concerns about his height? For starters, Mason surprised almost everyone, myself included, and jumped out of the gym with a max vertical leap of 41” at the NBA draft combine. That measurement was 4th best among all tested (scoring in the 97th percentile). Mason continued to impress during 5v5 scrimmages, posting 8 points, 4 assists and 0 turnovers in his first game, then scoring 21 points on 8 of 12 shooting in game 2, both in 21 minutes.
Mason’s athleticism helps him, but isn’t always enough to overcome some size mismatches. Here are some instances of Mason struggling with size.
On defense, Frank Mason won’t be a Patrick Beverly or Marcus Smart type of pest. Mason can coast defensively at times, especially off the ball, but I wouldn’t necessarily label him as a liability. He showed NBA physicality during combine play, which was a great look for him.
There were times during the scrimmages that Mason seemed to forget he was on a wider, longer court and no longer had the dense pack of defenders behind him that he did in college, like this play where he unnecessarily pressures his man which leads to a foul on his big man (a fate often worse than simply giving up the basket).
Opposing point guards in the NBA can rebound the ball, and guys like Westbrook and Rondo can put double-digit rebounds up on you in a hurry if you don’t box out. After a scrambled defensive possession, Mason lets two separate players run right by him without putting a body on either.
There will be hiccups here-and-there for most players, and Mason III is not immune. There aren’t a ton of recurring problems for him, and he’s shown throughout his college career that his basketball IQ repairs most problems before they become habitual.
For every “weakness” video I had on Mason though, I had about about eight “strength” videos in rebuttal. Mason is a coach’s point guard through-and-through. Offensively, he seems to make the right play 99 times out of 100, and his assist-to-turnover ratio, shooting percentages, efficiency and vision in the pick-and-roll, and ability to finish at the rim are what made him a lethal force at the college level. Here are Mason’s Senior season statistics, per DraftExpress:
So this season, Mason boasted a ridiculous 47.1% 3-point percentage, 21 points per game, a better than 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio, 80% free-throw percentage, and 4.2 rebounds per game.
Mason III has habitually put pressure on opposing defenses in transition whenever he could. In half court sets, Mason rarely did much off the ball outside of a few back-door cuts throughout the season. In the pick-and-roll however, Mason excelled as a scorer, shooter, and play-maker depending on what the defense would give him.
Mason has also shown that he is capable and comfortable driving the ball either direction, and below, we see Mason’s finishing and passing ability with his non-dominant hand.
Frank Mason has floated around draft projections anywhere between a late 40-something pick to a late 50-something pick. For some time, Mason was projected to go to the Knicks with the 58th pick, at other times he was assumed to maybe not be drafted at all.
Mason would fit within the triangle. More so, he would fit a pace-and-space offense, and seems like he will fit in with NBA play in general. Unless a stud like Caleb Swanigan or Jordan Bell falls to 44 (unlikely), I would consider taking Frank Mason that high. He has proven he can be elite among his college peers, and I’m not sure his height alone would sway me to bet against his NBA success. Mason is cerebral, tough, patient and athletic. There’s a lot to like in almost every play, and while his ceiling isn’t high enough to warrant a first round pick, he seems like a player who could manage almost immediately as a back-up PG and potentially even out-play any PG on next year’s Knicks roster.