Dallas Mavericks: Is O.J. Mayo a Top-10 Shooting Guard?


O.J. Mayo has had flashes of greatness in his first year with the Dallas Mavericks, but after a red-hot opening month has not produced nearly as well. (Flickr.com photo by Scott Mecum)

O.J. Mayo was drafted in 2008 with more than enough question marks. His odd high-school career was followed by an even more questionable collegiate career at USC. Now finishing his fourth season in the NBA with his second franchise and with an opportunity to go back on the free-agent market next year, you have to ask: How does he rank in today’s NBA?

To know O.J. you have to understand his history. He moved to Cincinnati in the eighth grade to live with his coach and played varsity basketball from Kentucky. His first day of school the local television station held a live broadcast as he walked through the front doors for the first time. He is responsible for the Ohio state record for highest attendance at a high-school game when his North College Hill High School team took on Oak Hill Academy. He appeared in Sports Illustrated in high school while LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony would sit in the stands.

The new NBA rule requiring athletes to wait one year before entering the draft his senior year was the only thing that stopped him from turning pro. The consequence was enrolling at USC early and playing pickup games during the summer with Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Sam Cassell and Jason Kidd. Not a bad consolation prize.

In his world, O.J. Mayo has always been top 10.

After being drafted originally third overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves, he was traded that night to the Memphis Grizzlies for his college nemesis at UCLA, Kevin Love. Mayo had lost to Love and Russell Westbrook the previous year in the Pac-10 tournament.

His rookie year he had the green light. They wanted Mayo to be the scoring punch in Memphis to go along with Rudy Gay. He averaged his career-best 18.5 points per game and 38 minutes a night in all 82 games. He finished second for Rookie of the Year to Derrick Rose. Unfortunately, Mayo would never match that type of production again.

In his 2009-10 season he averaged 17.5 points per game and the following season he lost his starting job and became a bench scorer. He only started 17 games in 2010-11 season and played in only 71 due to a 10-day suspension by the NBA.

By the 2011-12 season, Mayo was not starting at all and averaging 12.6 points per game as he struggled to find his shooting touch and minutes among new franchise players like Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay plus a crowded bench.

Now to this season. His first with the Dallas Mavericks. O.J. was given the opportunity to get his name back in the limelight again with Dirk Nowitzki out and a team without any scorers that could create their own shot. He led the league in scoring the first month averaging close to 30 points a night. Buzz started to build around Dallas that Mayo could possibly make the  All-Star team for the first time because he was the best player the Mavericks had. Once Dirk returned in the lineup, things quickly changed.

In the last 10 games, with beards and playoffs in the balance, Mayo averaged 9.4 points per game in a starting role. Not top 10 material.

I can name more than 10 shooting guards better than Mayo a team would rather have, but for time’s sake I will list 10 (in no particular order): Monta Ellis, J.J. Redick, Jamal Crawford, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Martin, Manu Ginobili, Klay Thompson and J.R. Smith.

I spoke with Dallas Mavericks elder statesman Mike James about O.J. Mayo and his current standing in the NBA among other point guards. He had a much different take.

James says, “O.J. is a very good player. He is one of the young guns for the future of the NBA. … He’s a great teammate and he’s been nothing but helpful since he has been here. He is one of the guys that I’ve been able to really grow in friendship with past and beyond the basketball court. It’s been fun being around him and playing with him in the backcourt.”

Mayo does have the potential to be a top-10 shooting guard. Dallas may be his best chance to get there. Mayo has the option to opt out of his contract at the end of this season to test the free-agent market. He may also be facing some surgery on a bad shoulder. My gut tells me that may limit his options to get a longer deal in place.

NBA Rankings (courtesy of NBA.com):

  • Ranks No. 40 in the NBA in Points Per Game (15.7)
  • Ranks No. 33 in the NBA in Assists Per Game (4.5)
  • Ranks No. 24 in the NBA in 3-Point Field-Goal Percentage (.410)
  • Ranks No. 38 in the NBA in Free-Throw Percentage (.820)
  • Ranks No. 41 in the NBA in Steals Per Game (1.16)
  • Ranks No. 25 in the NBA in Minutes Per Game (35.7)
  • Ranks No. 14 in the NBA in Minutes Played (2,820)
  • Ranks No. 38 in the NBA in Field Goals Made (455)
  • Ranks No. 35 in the NBA in Field-Goal Attempts (1008)
  • Ranks No. 25 in the NBA in 3-Point Field Goals Made (139)
  • Ranks No. 30 in the NBA in 3-Point Field-Goal Attempts (339)
  • Ranks No. 34 in the NBA in Assists (353)
  • Ranks No. 39 in the NBA in Steals (92)
  • Ranks No. 33 in the NBA in Points (1,240)
  • Ranks No. 46 in the NBA in Assists Per 48 Minutes (6.0
  • Ranks No. 22 in the NBA in Total Turnovers (201)
  • Ranks No. 27 in the NBA in Turnovers Per Game (2.54)
  • Ranks No. 47 in the NBA in Turnovers Per 48 Minutes (3.42)

I interviewed O.J. Mayo in LA before his first game with the Dallas Mavericks about being back in a starting role.