In search of answer at backup point guard, Wizards should look to Frank Mason
The Washington Wizards are one of the best teams among the also-rans that comprise the NBA’s
LeBron Conference — sorry, that should read: Eastern Conference. But for all the skills D.C.’s superbly talented backcourt combo of John Wall and Bradley Beal bring to the floor, the Wizards are in obvious need of a backup point guard.
And it just so happens someone who would fit the bill came through Washington’s practice facility on Monday.
His name is Frank Mason III. He’s a national player of the year at the college level. He values toughness and winning. What’s more: he even has a personal history with the Wizards.
“I watched them a lot growing up and now to actually be out here working out in front of everyone that’s going to decide whether they want to pick me or not, I think it’s a really cool experience,” Mason told reporters after his latest pre-NBA Draft workout, roughly two and a half hours from his hometown of Petersburg, Va.
Why would a team that reached the second round of the playoffs and already has two high-priced guards need to draft a 5-foot-11 point guard not expected to be worthy of a first-round pick? The answer to that question came in the playoffs, when neither Brandon Jennings nor Trey Burke provided any punch to the Wizards’ bench combinations. Wall and Beal had to play 39 minutes a game. By the end of a seven-game, second-round series against Boston, both looked too gassed to produce at their typical high-octane levels.
Both Jennings and Burke hit free agency July 1, so Washington doesn’t even have another legitimate point guard under contract for the 2017-18 season. If the Wizards want a relatively cheap answer, drafting Mason in the second round on June 22 would be a low-risk fix. Even if the Wizards fear Mason — currently projected as the 48th pick at Draft Express — won’t be around when it’s their turn at No. 52, second-round slots are easily acquired on draft night, so Washington could move up to make it happen.
Mason wouldn’t have to play a lot of minutes for Washington, because Wall and Beal are so productive and integral to the Wizards’ success. But that would be ideal for Mason, too. In his senior year at Kansas, head coach Bill Self needed all the point guard could give him for 36.1 minutes a game. Obviously his opponents will be far more talented at the NBA level, but if Mason can throw every ounce of energy into 15 or so minutes a game it should highlight his best qualities in his rookie season.
The college star described what he considers some of his most impactful skills after his workout with the Wizards.
“Just my quickness. Just getting around guys and kind of finishing before they get a chance to contest or block the shot. And other than that just getting my body into them and throwing them off balance so I can get the shot over them,” Mason said of how he can score despite his below-average (by NBA standards) height.
“Just how consistently I shoot the ball and my play-making skills,” he added, “and my toughness and my defensive mindset — taking pride and just trying to get a stop every possession.”
There, of course, are other avenues — free agency and the trade market — for Washington to acquire a reliable backup point guard. But why go for a cheap veteran on the down side of his career when you could go get a 23-year-old leader with a history of proving his doubters wrong?
Mason cited his loyalty and other attributes to The Washington Post’s Candace Buckner when explaining why a team should value his experience and the success he had at KU.
“How I’m a team-first guy. It’s always ‘we’ instead of ‘I,’ and if we win, the pie’s big enough for everyone,” Mason said.
Sounds like someone ready to complement an outstanding starting NBA backcourt.