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.

'Playing like a high school team' plaguing Sixers during losing streak

'Playing like a high school team' plaguing Sixers during losing streak

NEW ORLEANS — The Sixers have hit a four-game skid and there is not a clearly defined way out of it thanks to a laundry list of injuries.

“I think it’s painfully obvious,” Brett Brown said of what needs to be done. “Let’s get our better players back in a uniform.”

The Sixers have to play their best with their pieces available down two starters (Joel Embiid, Robert Covington) and a key bench player (T.J. McConnell).

There are adjustments that can be made to prevent a losing streak from spiraling the Sixers down in the standings.

“We need to be just smarter,” Dario Saric said. “I know we are a young team. I know are playing without Joel, without our very important players … we need to find a way. We need to be more calm down, don’t be nervous, especially on defense.” 

Saric pointed to the Sixers’ late-game defense in their 131-124 loss to the Pelicans (see observations). They were tied with eight minutes to play before the Pelicans hit threes on their next four straight possessions. Jrue Holiday drained four treys himself during a five-minute stretch to push the lead to 11. The Sixers were outscored 44-29 in the fourth quarter.

“In that situation, to me, we are playing like a high school team,” Saric said. “That cannot happen. We need to be smarter at that point. I hope we will grow up and we will be mentally ready for that last five, six, seven minutes.”

The Sixers also were in the position to come back Saturday in Cleveland. They trailed the Cavaliers, 99-98, with 1:39 to play and did not score after that point.

It was during that final stretch when Covington landed out of bounds and suffered a lower back contusion. A day later, Embiid was a late scratch because of lower back tightness (see story). McConnell has missed five of the last six games with a left shoulder injury.

“We’ve got to be consistent with making the right plays every time,” Ben Simmons said. “It’s hard to make mistakes without those guys there. When you make mistakes and you don’t have Jo or Cov and guys like that to make up for that, it’s tough. But we’ve got to just come together as a team and get through it.” 

The Sixers don't have it easy their next two games. They face the Timberwolves (16-11) Tuesday in Minnesota when Embiid said he expects to play but has not been cleared. Covington is doubtful, while McConnell's status is to be determined. The Sixers return home Friday from a three-game road trip to host the Thunder (12-13).

Joel Embiid: 'If it was the Finals, I'm sure I could have gone'

Joel Embiid: 'If it was the Finals, I'm sure I could have gone'

BOX SCORE

NEW ORLEANS — Joel Embiid is trying to kick back tightness he has been dealing with since Thursday.

Embiid was a late scratch for the Sixers in Sunday's 131-124 loss to the Pelicans (see observations). He said he began to experience the tightness while playing Thursday against the Lakers. Embiid received treatment during the game but felt "pretty sore" after.

The big man already was slated to miss one of the two back-to-backs in Cleveland and New Orleans because of his medical restriction. He sat Saturday, but when he warmed up pregame Sunday, he still didn’t feel healthy enough to go.

“I tried to warm up earlier but I couldn't,” Embiid said. “If it was the Finals, I'm sure I could have gone. But we've got 82 games and they don't want me to push if I'm not a hundred percent, so that's what I did.”

The Sixers need Embiid (23.5 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.0 blocks) back on the court. They have dropped to 13-13 on a four-game losing streak, including these last two without him. Embiid is an integral part of the Sixers’ defense, especially against a Pelicans team with DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis in the frontcourt. The two bigs combined for 52 points, 17 rebounds and six blocks. 

Embiid said he expects to play in the Sixers' next game, Tuesday in Minnesota. Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns is posting 19.8 points, 11.6 boards and 1.3 blocks per game this season. Embiid still has to work out Monday before that his availability. In the meantime, he is receiving massage treatment.

“I just got to keep resting for a couple days and see how it feels day-by-day,” Embiid said. “But it's been getting better. It's a lot, much better.”

Embiid is the latest Sixers to be added to the list of injuries. Robert Covington suffered a lower back contusion Saturday and is doubtful for Tuesday (see story). T.J. McConnell continues to be hampered by a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder. He has missed five of his last six games. Markelle Fultz (right shoulder) and Justin Anderson (left leg) are weeks out from another reevaluation.