Free agent Mason is excellent fit for NOLA
By: Jim Eichenhofer,, @Jim_Eichenhofer

Among the players the New Orleans Hornets had under contract for the 2012-13 season entering this week, just three would most accurately be described as guards: Eric Gordon, Greivis Vasquez and rookie Austin Rivers. With only three backcourt players on the roster, it seemed logical to predict that the Hornets would try to increase depth at that position soon. Hornets general manager Dell Demps accomplished that objective Wednesday afternoon, signing reserve shooting guard Roger Mason, an eight-year NBA veteran.

Perimeter shooting is always at a premium in the NBA, which is what has made the 32-year-old Mason a valuable asset throughout his pro career. The University of Virginia product – who most recently played 52 games for the Washington Wizards during the 2011-12 season – is a career 38.1 percent three-point shooter. According to the stat-based Basketball Reference website, Mason ranks 40th among all active NBA players in that category, slightly ahead of the likes of Jason Terry, Michael Redd and Dirk Nowitzki.

New Orleans was near the bottom of the league in three-point accuracy for the bulk of last season, before a late-season improvement bumped the Hornets up to 22nd out of 30 teams. New Orleans finished at just 33.3 percent as a team. Meanwhile, they were 30th in total number of made three-pointers, draining 3.9 per game. Among the team’s returning players, only Vasquez (43-for-135 in 2011-12) connected on more than 13 treys. Meanwhile, Mason alone made 59 three-pointers with Washington in his 52 appearances.

If Mason’s name sounds somewhat familiar to Hornets fans, it’s probably due to his breakout 2008-09 campaign as a member of the San Antonio Spurs. In the season after the Hornets and Spurs met during their epic seven-game Western Conference semifinal series, Mason started 71 times for San Antonio and made a string of clutch late-game shots. His most famous buzzer-beater occurred on Christmas Day of 2008, when he drilled a corner three-pointer at the horn to vault the Spurs to a 91-90 victory at Phoenix. He also shot a career-best 41.1 percent from three-point range in ’08-09.