The story of Frank Mason’s unlikely rise to consensus NPOY doesn’t need to be retold here. Three star recruit, Towson, etc. We all know the background. The gap between what seemed to lie ahead for Mason as a high school junior and what lies ahead for him today is perhaps as great as we’ve seen in any Jayhawk in modern history.
Mason racked up solid minutes for a relatively unheralded freshman at Kansas, but his first year was a streaky one, where he would crack double digit points seven times, but seemed reckless, barreling toward the rim at full speed, only occasionally converting there. His jump shot looked like a work in progress, and he hit fewer than a third of his threes.
His sophomore year he started quieting his doubters. His drives still seemed to lack some control (but we would come to see over the years that this is simply his style), but he was creating more offense with them. He hit 43% of his threes by being picky and sticking to open shots. These trends would continue his junior year, which was statistically very similar to the previous one.
Coming into his senior year, Mason was an NBA afterthought. His shooting was fine, he was incredibly quick, but he was less than 6’, and didn’t have the Chris Paul type skill set it seems everyone assumes you need to play point as a guy without height in the NBA.
That changed over the course of the year, as Mason started to prove just how special a basketball player he is. It seemed impossible, surrounded by players like Devonte Graham, Josh Jackson, Svi Mykhailiuk and Landen Lucas, that anyone could average 20 points per game in Bill Self’s big-centric offense. Yet as the season went on, Mason proved his early scoring numbers were no fluke.
Mason has an explosive first step, nearly unrivaled. His three point shooting is no longer in any question as he hit 47% in 174 attempts. His on-man defense is fierce, and he’ll play as physically as you ask him too. Despite his quiet demeanor, there’s no questioning his confidence, as he once proclaimed in practice that he could defend LeBron James. Mason is a workhorse who will do anything you ask him to, and has the basketball IQ and athleticism to to earn him a spot on the NBA roster, despite standing just 5’11.
However, despite his monster senior season, Mason was still though of as a fringe prospect just a couple of months ago. However, his postseason workouts have consistently propelled him up the mocks. Per Draft Express, Mason boasted the 7th highest vertical at the NBA combine at 34”. He actually stood 6’0 in shoes, and had a 6’3.25” wingspan, which will only help him as a defender.
Per Julian Applebome at Draft Express, Mason’s strengths include his physicality, explosiveness and ability to attack the basket. His shooting is obviously a big plus, as he won’t be getting to the rim at will at the next level the way he did in college. DX sees him as an “score first, change-of-pace style point guard” who would likely come off the bench. This reminds me a bit of Isaiah Canaan, another 6’0 point guard who filled it up in college but has been more of a role player in the NBA.
As far as drawbacks go, Mason obviously has a few, or we’d be talking about him as a lottery pick the way I’ve been gushing over him so far. Obviously, even 6’0 in shoes is on the small end for an NBA player. While he has an elite ability to get to the basket, he has not shown an elite ability to finish there. DX shows he finished just 49% of his attempts at the rim in his career, putting him in just the 37th percentile of college players. They also note that after he’s forced the defense to collapse in on him, he’s more likely to force a circus layup or contested floater than kick it to an open shooter. Applebome also points out that some of his assist numbers are due to defenses overhelping on him, and that he’s not necessarily an exceptional natural passer. Applebome concludes his profile by saying “Mason is a likely second round pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, but it would not be surprising to see him make a team and carve out a successful career.”
As of writing, DX has Mason going 47th overall to the Indiana Pacers. CBS Sports has him 45th to the Rockets. Sports Illustrated agrees with CBS Sports. NBA Draft Net sees him a bit lower at 53rd to the Celtics.
So general consensus is that Mason will likely hear his name called in the middle of the second round. His best chance is to find a situation where he can grow into a role as an offensive-minded point guard who can do a little more than fly to the rim and hit open threes.