76ers

The case for Kansas' Frank Mason III as a Sixers' 2nd-round pick

The case for Kansas' Frank Mason III as a Sixers' 2nd-round pick

Over the weeks leading up to the 2017 NBA draft, we'll be making cases for the Sixers to draft several prospects. Our series will kick off with options at No. 3 (or trade downs) followed by second-round possibilities. The 2017 NBA draft will take place on June 22 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

Frank Mason III
Position: PG
School: Kansas
Height: 5-11
Weight: 185 pounds
Wingspan: 6-3¼

If you've watched any Kansas basketball the last four seasons, you've seen plenty of the little engine that could. After starting slow as a freshman, Mason averaged more than 30 minutes a game in each of his last three seasons for the Jayhawks with his points per game average ballooning from about a dozen as a sophomore and junior to 20.9 with 5.2 assists per contest last year. Under Bill Self, the Petersburg, Va., native has had the opportunity to play with several NBA talents, including Joel Embiid, Minnesota's Andrew Wiggins and Washington's Kelly Oubre.

Mason earned 2017 Naismith Player of the Year accolades and won 116 games in his collegiate career, helping the Jayhawks to four Big 12 titles. And in a guard-heavy draft, Mason's experience helps him stand out among a group of younger backcourt players. Even if the Sixers do go with Markelle Fultz at No. 1, they still could use more firepower at the guard spot — but there are also reasons to question whether Mason's college performance will ultimately translate to the pros.

The case for Mason
Even though Mason has already passed his 23rd birthday, his growth still continues. His averages in points, rebounds and assists have remained constant or increased every year, and as a senior, Mason shot close to 50 percent from beyond the arc (47.1). Working out for Sixers brass Monday morning, he showed off the quick trigger on his jumper — an ability that a Duke guy like myself is now well aware of after Mason drained a game-winning stepback jumper over Matt Jones in the 2016 Champions Classic last November.

Mason also knows the exact role that the Sixers would need him to fill. At Kansas, he was a point guard first with plenty of weapons around him to dish the ball out to, but also a scoring threat and a crucial defender. With Fultz, Mason would be a bench piece that could step into the game and bring firepower with his lightning-quick first step. He explodes to the basket, drawing 6.6 free throw attempts per game, and has shown an improved pick-and-roll game that will allow him to mesh into the NBA style.

"Not too many people know [how athletic I am]," Mason said after his workout with the Sixers.

Perhaps, most crucially, Mason is a winner. The Jayhawks have captured 13 consecutive Big 12 regular-season titles and Mason played an integral during his time in Lawrence to keep that streak alive. He also led Kansas to a Big 12 tournament crown in 2016 and Elite Eight appearances each of the last two seasons. He suffered just 29 losses in his entire collegiate career and is a lead-by-example kind of guy that could add a winning mentality to a Sixers team that has had plenty of defeats over the course of the last few seasons.

The case against Mason
You don't have to look at Mason for long to realize why he's not like most NBA players. According to 2016 data as calculated by FanSided.com, the average point guard height is just a bit taller than 6-foot-2. But there were almost no PGs under the 6-foot mark and the recent trend is actually for bigger guards like the 6-5 Lonzo Ball. 

Even though Mason does make up for some of his lack of height with quickness, it's easy to see why he'd struggle in his initial adjustment to the pro game. This deficiency would impact him on both ends of the floor. Plenty of pros would be able to get their shot off over top of him and his ability to get to the lane would be limited despite weighing in at 185 pounds. 

Then, there's also the fact that he's just old for NBA rookies today. Five guys on the Sixers' current roster are younger than Mason and more than half their roster is 23 or younger.  Mason has plenty of wear and tear on his body after playing 145 college games and there are lots of young point guard options for the Sixers (see Frank Jackson or Edmond Sumner).

Analysis
The Sixers are going to get their point guard at No. 1, which immediately diminishes the need for a second true PG. That being said, Mason's pedigree as a winner immediately makes him a natural fit. He can shoot, he's confident with the ball in his hands and even despite being a shorter guard, he's a tenacious defender.

Still, I think his height comes back to haunt him. Right now, DraftExpress projects Mason as the 47th overall pick to Indiana (right after the Sixers pick at No. 46). He's got the talent to be a solid NBA role player, but I'm not entirely sure that Philadelphia would be his best landing spot.

With Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons set to debut, John Wall and Bradley Beal recall their early days

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With Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons set to debut, John Wall and Bradley Beal recall their early days

The Sixers will have two No. 1 overall picks make their NBA debuts on Wednesday night in Markelle Fultz (2017) and Ben Simmons (2016). They are in for a challenge with the Wizards, one of the best teams in basketball, and with guards John Wall and Bradley Beal.

Wall and Beal know that challenge well. They were both top draft picks in their own right, Wall the first pick in 2010 and Beal the third pick in 2012. They can recall in specifics their first games in the NBA and how humbling they were.

"My first game, I was going against Dwight Howard. It was fun," Wall said. "There was a lot of pressure. There were a lot of people talking."

It's often said that the point guard position is as deep as it's ever been nowadays. The last three MVP awards have gone to point guards, for instance.

There were some good ones back in 2010, too.

"I remember in a five-game span I played like [Rajon] Rondo, Derrick Rose here and then I went out west and played Steve Nash, Chris Paul and Russell [Westbrook]," Wall said. "I don't think it's gotten any harder than it was back then in 2010 with those five guys. You kind of understand what those guys are about when you get to see it firsthand and play against them."

Beal vividly remembers going up against the LeBron James-led Miami Heat as a 19-year-old. It wasn't easy.

"It was the Heat when they had [Dwyane Wade] and LeBron on the same team. That's when D-Wade was electrifying. He still had his quickness. He was strong as I don't know what and I was a baby at that time," he said.

"For me, it was like I was in awe because those are the guys I grew up watching and I was a fan of. Now I'm playing against them and I can't be a fan of them. It was amazing to play against them, but also an eye-opener like, I need to get better."

Now it's Fultz and Simmons' turn to see what matching up with NBA superstars is like and don't expect Wall or Beal to take it easy on them.

"I'm a competitive person, so I'm not going to back down from any challenge," Wall said.

Joel Embiid to start Sixers' season opener, but how much will he play?

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Joel Embiid to start Sixers' season opener, but how much will he play?

WASHINGTON — The first starting lineup of the Sixers' 2017-18 season will be Ben Simmons, Jerryd Bayless, JJ Redick, Robert Covington and Joel Embiid.

Brown is sticking with the group that closed out preseason competition. That group has a balance of veterans and young talent, including Simmons making his NBA debut after missing all of last season with a foot injury.

"It helps a lot (starting together in the preseason) because you're learning guys and how they move and how they play," Simmons said. "I think we have a pretty good connection going into tonight's game and it's only going to get better."

Embiid will be under a minutes restriction but Brown does not have a definitive number. The big man previously said he expected to play 16 minutes. Embiid was the last one to leave the court at the conclusion of shootaround. 

"There's a range that we'll work with," Brown said. "We're going to feel it together. We'll play Joel within some parameters and go from that base." 

Markelle Fultz also will make his NBA debut. The No. 1 pick, who has battled right knee and shoulder soreness, will come off the bench in front of his hometown crowd. 

"I'm excited," Fultz said. "It's anything you can wish for."