Frank Mason III

Preseason Game 1 vs Spurs a night of firsts for Kings rookies

kings-rookies-ham-ap.jpg
AP

Preseason Game 1 vs Spurs a night of firsts for Kings rookies

SACRAMENTO -- A night of firsts. When you walk into a season with five rookies, there are going to be a few new experiences for the team’s young players. While none of the Sacramento Kings’ draft class started the game, four of them played a role in the club’s 106-100 victory over the San Antonio Spurs.

Sacramento’ prized rookie point guard, De’Aaron Fox, showed well in the preseason opener, scoring 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting with the second unit. He added two assists, a steal and a block in 16 minutes of action.

Coming off the bench was something new for Fox. According to the 19-year-old speedster, he’s started every game he’s ever played in.  

“Skal (Labissiere) just kept telling us, ‘watch the flow of the game, see what’s going on out there,’” Fox said following the win. “As far as me, I’ve never come off the bench before, it was something different.”

The rookie drew a huge ovation when he came in the game and he didn’t disappoint. He has elite speed and he played under control. He’ll need time to develop, but there’s no question that he is an NBA player.

After years of starring in the European leagues and in international play, Bogdan Bogdanovic suited up in an NBA uniform for the first time.

“Finally, a dream come true, really,” the Serbian wing said. “I felt that I was an NBA player on the court. I’ll take this chance to thank my fans here. I was really surprised they cheered for me after the substitution and the most important thing is the win.”

Bogdanovic, 25, was the first player to enter the game off the bench. He subbed in for NBA legend Vince Carter, who welcomed him to the court with a huge smile.

While his numbers don’t jump off the page, Bogdanovic looked comfortable in his 13 minutes of action, coming away with two points and three rebounds. He made a concerted effort to get his teammates involved and even ran the offense flanked by Fox and second-year shooting guard Buddy Hield.

Frank Mason is no stranger to the big stage. The NCAA National Player of the Year put on show in 17 minutes of play, leading the team in both scoring (17 points) and rebounding (six boards). Coach Dave Joerger is going to have a difficult time keeping the spark plug off the court if he keeps putting up numbers.  

“I really don’t like to talk about myself, it’s all about the team,” Mason said. “I think we did a pretty good job as a team, because we won the game and that’s the main goal.”

Mason was instant offense every time he stepped on the floor. The 23-year-old took the Spurs off the dribble and hit a variety of floaters in the lane. He also knocked down 2-for-4 from long range and 5-of-6 from the line as he attacked San Antonio’s backcourt.

Rookie Justin Jackson had a rough shooting night, scoring just one point on 0-for-7 shooting over 23 minutes. It’s a blip on the radar for the former North Carolina Tarheel. Jackson is expected to fight for minutes at the small forward position this season for the Kings.

Sacramento selected Harry Giles out of Duke with the 20th overall pick, but they plan on taking it slow with the 19-year-old power forward. Despite participating in training camp all week, Giles sat out due to bilateral knee rehab. There is no word on whether Giles will play during the preseason schedule.

The Kings took Tuesday off to rest, but they'll be back on the practice floor on Wednesday and Thursday before flying to San Antonio to face the Spurs for the second time on Friday evening.

De'Aaron Fox is the future, but don't count out Frank Mason

mason-frank-kansas-kentucky-fox.jpg
AP

De'Aaron Fox is the future, but don't count out Frank Mason

For years the NBA has overvalued potential and undervalued production come draft season. The 2017 NBA Draft was a microcosm of the trend, as the top 11 players had one year of college experience or less. Some of these players were productive in a small sample size, but all of them were drafted on potential.

De’Aaron Fox showed flashes of brilliance in his lone season at the University of Kentucky. He put on a show in the tournament, which helped skyrocket him up most draft boards and the Kings were more than excited to see him fall into their lap at the fifth overall selection.

In comparison, Frank Mason III spent four years building a resumé at Kansas. He finished his senior season averaging 20.9 points and 5.2 assists per game while shooting 47.1 percent from 3-point range.

Mason’s numbers were good enough to earn him AP Player of the Year, the Oscar Robertson Award, the Naismith College Player of the Year Award and plenty of other accolades. His trophy case is stuffed full, but that didn’t stop him from falling to the fourth pick of the second round, no. 34 overall.

Maybe it isn’t fair, but it is the reality of the situation. At 19-years-old, teams are predicting that Fox can be a star. At 23, Mason is considered a finished product with little room to grow.

Fox is lean and athletic. He can run the floor as well as anyone in any league, but he has plenty to learn about the game of basketball. He is already being billed as a franchise cornerstone before he’s even played a single game in the NBA. His potential on both ends of the court is elite.

Mason is described as tough, NBA ready and mature. He lacks Fox’s size and length, but he makes up for his shortcomings by playing with heart and moxie. His leaping ability and leadership qualities will win fans over quickly.

While Sacramento is pinning its hopes for the future on Fox, that doesn’t necessarily mean that Mason is out of the picture. Both players will fight for minutes behind starter George Hill. Don’t be shocked if Mason plays a bigger role than Fox in certain games.

Potential is a word for front office staff. Once the ball is tipped, Dave Joerger will go to the players that give him the best opportunity to win. He will side with production and in year one, Mason is the most game ready. He may not have Fox’s ceiling as a player, but he is likely better prepared to fill a role.

With three point guards on the roster, Joerger also has the option of playing either Hill or Fox at the shooting guard position. This could potentially open up more than just 48 minutes for the trio.

Having options is a good. Mason’s presence on the roster, in addition to Hill’s, allows the coaching staff to bring Fox along at cautious pace. They can take their time teaching him the game, knowing that they have another able body on the roster.

There will be a time when Fox is turned loose on the NBA. It might be 20 games into the season or it could be 100 games into his career. In the meantime, don’t count out Mason as an important figure on the 2017-18 Kings rotation.

George Hill will play a major role as he mentors Kings rookies

hill-george-bench.jpg
USATI

George Hill will play a major role as he mentors Kings rookies

On draft night 2017, the Sacramento Kings tested the old proverb, “patience is a virtue.” Instead of giving up gold to move into the top three of the draft, guaranteeing a shot at selecting De’Aaron Fox, they sat back and let the talented 19-year-old point guard fall to them at the fifth pick.

They backed that selection up by drafting Frank Mason, another point guard, in the early second round. The message was clear - veterans Darren Collison and Ty Lawson were not coming back for the 2017-18 season.

It appeared that Vlade Divac and his group were ready to head into the season with rookies manning one of the most important positions on the floor, and then the team went on a July 4th spending spree. Vince Carter and Zach Randolph were added for veteran leadership at the wing and in the post and George Hill inked a three-year, $57 million deal to stabilize the backcourt.

Hill, 31, has plenty left in the tank. He spent last season with the Utah Jazz, helping the team improve from 40 wins during the 2015-16 season, to 51 wins in 2016-17. He averaged a career-best 16.9 points for coach Quin Snyder while posting 4.2 assists and 3.4 rebounds in 31.5 minutes per game.

The nine-year NBA vet might not see the same type of minutes in his first season in Sacramento, but Dave Joerger is going to give plenty of time to his veterans while the young core finds its sea legs.

Sacramento is very high on Fox. They also know that Mason can play solid minutes in year one, but Hill will play a major role while he mentors the rookies.

Both Fox and Hill can also shift to the shooting guard position for short stints and play alongside each other. The Kings already have plenty of bodies at the two, but Fox’s development will be a high priority as they groom him for the seasons to come.

On the downside, Hill has missed plenty of games over his career, including 33 last season due to toe and groin issues. He’s never played a full 82 games, but in this scenario, that might not be a negative.

Sacramento hedged their bet with Hill, giving themselves a $1 million buyout for year three of the deal. If Fox is ready to take over full-time or Hill begins to decline as a player, the Kings can clear a mountain of cap space off the books for the summer of 2019.

For now, Hill will start at the point and act as a veteran advisor for Fox and Mason. There is no question that he knew what he was buying into when he signed his contract with the Kings. He’ll eat plenty of minutes as the rookies learn the ropes at the NBA level and then he will pass the torch when the time is right.

The Kings have talent, depth and a future at point guard. Minutes will be earned, not handed out, which is the way it should be.