Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Curious Case of OJ Mayo

Huzzah for being done with university, I can starting posting again with some degree of regularity. In an effort to increase my knowledge of the less televised teams I splurged on NBA League Pass for the season. However, watching 12 games on some days quickly put me over my download limit so I had to be a bit more selective in what I viewed. I tuned into the second half of the Memphis-Miami game and I was glad for a few reasons; Miami lost, Rudy Gay had an incredible game-winner over Lebron, and most interestingly, I got to see why OJ Mayo's numbers are down.

For a kid whose game was compared to Kobe Bryant's growing up, he mirrored the Black Mamba again in being very passive, not taking many shots and just looking generally disinterested tonight. This sort of attitude is at odds with a kid who was described as incredibly hard-working prior to his joining the NBA ranks and there are a couple of possible reasons; it could be that Mayo expected Rudy to leave and be given the reins to the team and when this didn't happen it took him down a peg, it could be that Rudy is increasingly establishing himself as their go-to guy and tonight's performance in comparison to Mayo's was telling. This wasn't how it was supposed to be for a guy who dominated the ball his entire career and was a scoring machine at every stop before the NBA.

Like his draft-mate Michael Beasley - who is experiencing a rejuvenation of sorts in Minnesota - a change of scenery might cure what ails him. Wherever he goes, he needs to be the Man. With sharpshooter Xavier Henry waiting in the wings, Mayo doesn't appear to be a long-term part of the Memphis organisation. So let's take a look at where Mayo might be like Mike (Beasley that is) and get a second chance at superstardom.

The primary candidate has to be the Charlotte Bobcats; they are struggling this season, and need a young star to complement their other young pieces. While Captain Jack is manning the 2-guard at the moment, he'll run out of steam sooner or later and Mayo will be given the green light when that happens. Wallace is more of a defensive, energy guy, same can be said for Tyrus Thomas. DJ is a great shooter, but struggles to create for others, so having a player like Mayo who can create his own shot would be a bonus. Being in the East, Mayo's primary threat at the 2-guard spot would be Dwyane Wade, another undersized SG, so he wouldn't be giving up any size defensively - while Joe Johnson might be a struggle, Wallace could match up with him, and Mayo could guard the less offensively gifted Marvin Williams. Henderson is clearly not the solution long term as he has struggled to be productive outside of the Summer League.

Another possible team would be the San Antonio Spurs; they are extremely well coached, and Manu is going to have an increasingly decreased role in the next few years, just as Mayo enters his prime. However, Ginobili and Mayo could form a potent back-court, with Manu handling more of the playmaking while leaving Mayo to be a scorer. Tim Duncan is on the way out and they will need someone to pair with Tiago Splitter, Tony Parker and DeJuan Blair for the Spurs to stay relevant. Mayo could be that guy to bring them into their next phase of existence. Parker is already struggling with injury before hitting 30, and George Hill is perfectly capable of playing the point, so no problems there either, and Mayo will be 25 when Manu's extension runs out.

The last team I'll mention here, though there are a number of others, is the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers have always managed to find ways to pick up star players, and of all of these scenarios, this strikes me as the most likely. Kobe has a LOT of mileage on him at the moment, and I can't see him lasting more than three years or so. Shannon Brown isn't a long-term answer, and should always be a bench guy for the Lakers. Mayo would provide a running mate to Pau Gasol until he's ready to take over the team himself, and who knows, maybe Phil Jackson will retire and come back in a few years to guide the next young SG star. Mayo could even play the point in Jackson's system, as the triangle needs great shooting more than anything from the point position. Whatever the coaching staff, it's hard not to think that Mayo would be a good fit in Hell-ay.

As I said, Mayo has been compared to Kobe before, and he might just break out after a few sub-par seasons. Whether it's in LA or elsewhere, it's too late to give up on OJ Mayo.

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