3 Shades of Blue is doing a player byplayer evaluation ofthe 2010-11team. Handling the review of O J Mayo is the former blogger for the Grizzlies NBA page Chirs Avis.
Contract: Signed through end of 2011-12 season
The 3rd pick of the 2008 NBA Draft, OJ Mayo came complete with All-Star hype and potential. He didnt disappoint in his first two seasons, playing every game and averaging 18.5 and 17.5 points per game, respectively. When Mayo exploded for 40 points in the 3rd game of the 09-10 season, Grizz fans rejoiced that they just mightve found the star the franchise had been searching for.
To call last season a setback for Mayo is akin to saying Charlie Sheens career has hit a speed bump. Mayo was moved from the starting lineup to the role of 6th man (a move that needed to be made). He got in a fight with Tony Allen on the team plane (and lost). He was suspended for 10 games for violating the terms of the leagues anti-drug program. And he was minutes away from being traded to the Indiana Pacers. Amidst all that, he had career lows across the board (games, minutes, points, field goal percentage, rebounds, assists). But Mayo did seem to come alive in the Oklahoma City Thunder series, scoring 14 or more points in 5 of the 7 games and being moved back into the starting lineup in game 6. A down year, yes, but a glimmer of hope at the end.
Its hard for me to rationally talk about Mayo. If the Grizzlies were Twilight, then Team Edward would be Rudy Gay and Team Jacob would be Mayo. Not that Ive seen Twilight. I just used that reference to bring in a new audience, I promise. (And I was totally on Team Jacob in that scenario. I mean, Team Mayo.)
I probably overvalue Mayos importance as much as the Grizzlies organization has seemed to undervalue him over the past 12 months. Heres what we know. The Grizzlies were one game away from making the Conference Finals. Normally, to get over that hump, youd need to make a few minor changes and tweaks. The good news for the Grizz is that all they have to do is stand pat, stay healthy, add Rudy Gay back into the fold and they have the potential to make an even deeper run next year. The three key things to this deep run are: resigning Marc Gasol, having the key players healthy going into the playoffs and reviving OJ Mayos career.
Mayo should return to the role of 6th man to provide the second unit with a scoring punch. Even though hes coming off the bench, Mayo should probably log just as many minutes on the wing as any player not named Rudy Gay. And theres a good chance he should be closing out just as many games, if not more, than Tony Allen. Mayo needs to be a scorer when playing with the second unit and a spot-up shooter that spaces the floor when playing with the starters. With a year of coming off the bench under his belt and his offcourt troubles behind him, hopefully Mayo can fill the Jason Terry type role for this Grizz team.
Long Term Plans
There are plenty of reasons to speculate that Mayo is no longer in the long term plans of the Grizz. Lets count them.
1.Mayo was almost traded just a few months ago.
2.Mayo only has one year left on his contract.
3.The Grizz have a logjam on the perimeter with Mayo, Rudy Gay, Tony Allen, Sam Young, Xavier Henry and potentially Shane Battier coming back.
4.The Grizz already have a lot of long term money invested in Mike Conley, Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph. Marc Gasol should be added to this list soon enough.
No doubt the Grizz are debating trading Mayo now rather than potentially let him sign elsewhere at the end of next season. Heres why I wouldnt. Mayos trade value is still pretty low. He might be able to fetch you an expiring contract and middle first round pick, but neither of those help the 2011 Grizz team. And its amazing to even type this, but this Grizz team is poised for a run right now, not later.
The Grizz should be going all-in on the 2011-12 season. The Western Conference superpowers are aging (Spurs, Lakers, Mavericks) and the new guard is on the rise. Before these superpowers reload or other teams rise up, the Grizz and Thunder are both primed to make a Finals run. Why trade a proven scorer, shooter and possible 6th man of the year candidate for a modicum of future value? I would suggest letting the 2011-12 season play out, see if Mayo reinvents himself as a 6th man and helps lead the team deeper in the playoffs. If so, maybe hes worth keeping on the payroll. If not, theres no harm in letting him go without compensation. The risk of giving up on him too soon is far greater than the trade compensation the Grizz could get for him. I told you I was Team Jacob, er, Mayo.