Who is Frank Mason? He’s an undersized 5’11 point guard from Kansas who wears the number zero and is damn near as confident, aggressive, and animated on the court as Russell Westbrook. Yesterday, Jake Fischer from Sports Illustrated released that the Thunder brought him in for a second time for an isolated workout--two days before the draft.
Let me repeat this… This the second time Frank Mason, the veteran Kansas guard, has entered the Thunder’s training facility to show his talents to Sam Presit and his staff for the upcoming draft. Currently Draft Express has Frank Mason sliding all the way to pick 47 in Thursday’s draft.
My spidey, scratch that, Sam Presti senses are tingling…
Frank Mason is a 23-year-old senior who led Kansas to an impressive 90-19 record during his tenure as a Jayhawk. Just last season, he was awarded the 2017 Naismith College Basketball Player of the Year award—which is a big deal. In his senior season, he averaged 20.9 points per game on 50% shooting, 47.1% from behind the arc —5 attempts per game— 4.2 rebounds, and 5.2 assists. Last season he had an effective field goal percentage of 57.3.
He excels, much like Westbrook, with his explosiveness and his ability to drive hard to the rim and finish with ease or in very tight spaces. Draft Express describes, “His burst with the ball was also effective in the half court, where he's shown a powerful first step and the ability to change directions with force and attack his man off the dribble without a ball screen.” Sound familiar? Mason reminds me a lot of a smaller Russell Westbrook—both in the way he plays the point guard position and in his mentality and toughness.
Although there are quite a few similarities between Westbrook with Mason, there is one very large difference—shooting ability. Frank Mason absolutely set the Big 12 on fire last season shooting the basketball. As stated above, He shot 47% from 3-point range, on 5 attempts per game, which is the highest percentage in the draft, with a true shooting percentage of 62.2%. He finished the year in the 99th percentile in catch-and-shoot 3-pointers. He’s got a quick release, and he consistently punishes defenders who go behind the screen man, and will pull the trigger quickly from behind the arch—while half the time finding the inside of the basket.
Much like Jawun Evans, the largest concern with Frank is his size translating to the next level. Pair that with the fact that he is already 23 years of age, and you can see why many mock drafts have him sliding towards the end of the draft. Although, with the situation the Thunder are in, I think getting a veteran backup point guard with big game experience is what their second unit needs—more than a young player that needs consistent development.
So why did Sam Presti ask to see Frank for a second time? I think this could be a strong indicator that Sam intends to buy or trade for the rights to a 2nd round pick in the draft tomorrow night—to take an experienced guard like Frank Mason.
We all know the backup point guard position is the largest need for the Thunder next season. OKC’s position, both in the draft and as a free-agency destination, does not help Sam fill this hole at all. I believe pick 21 will put Sam in a bad situation, and force him to pick from a litter of big men that fell from the mid-first round. As much as I respect Draft Express and the work those guys put in, it is hard for me to believe that picks 16, 17, 18, & 19 are all going to be center prospects. The league just isn't heading in a direction that still values their talents as strongly as guards and wings.
I believe those players are going to start to slide back and the guards and wings in the back half of the draft are going to move up and be taken in those spots. People think I’m crazy, but there is a high chance players like Terrence Ferguson, Derrick White, DJ Wilson, Jawun Evans, Semi Ojeleye, and others could be taken before the Thunder have an opportunity to select at pick number 21.
If you pair that with my skepticism of the Thunder’s availability to land free agents and convincing a decent backup point guard to, more than likely, take less money, move to Oklahoma, and have a limited role behind Russell, I am fearful of how we can fix the backup point guard position. Also, keep in mind, there is the opposite scenario, where those centers do not slide, and picking one of those point guards at pick 21 is too much of a reach, and Presti will have to go with best player available.
I think Presti is gearing up to take the best player available at pick 21, despite position, and is currently making arrangements to get into the second round to select a back up guard—just in case he is unable to sign one via free agency. He may have to buy the pick from a team or make sure that one is included in whatever deal he works out during the draft.
If Sam is employing that strategy, which asking Mason to work out twice could suggest, the former Jayhawk is a home run. The kid is a winner, who has a ton of experience playing in huge games at the college level and has a truck load of heart that could possibly rival Westbrook’s passion. In his Player’s Tribune article, he reflected on his childhood nickname of “the phenom,” and insisted that he is a pit bull. I love his energy and toughness, and most of all I love the way he shoots the basketball. Because of his age and experience, he could come right in and make an impact on day one. Sam Presti utilizing every tool and resource to get into the second round tomorrow night may be the only way he can address the backup point guard position for the upcoming season.