Milwaukee Bucks: How Good Can O.J. Mayo Be This Season?

Oct 9, 2014; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks guard O.J. Mayo (00) dribbles the ball during the second quarter against the Detroit Pistons at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 9, 2014; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks guard O.J. Mayo (00) dribbles the ball during the second quarter against the Detroit Pistons at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports /

If you’ve recently watched the Milwaukee Bucks in the preseason, you have probably noticed a new and improved O.J. Mayo.

O.J. Mayo, after four seasons in Memphis and one in Dallas, came to Milwaukee last season to help fill the void Monta Ellis left when he went to Dallas. Mayo seemed to be a good replacement for Ellis, who averaged 19.2 points and six assists per game in his second and last season with the Bucks.

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Mayo was coming off a season with Dallas in which he averaged 15.3 points and 4.4 assists per game, and looked for a bigger role with the Bucks. The role was there for Mayo’s taking, but he instead decided to get out of shape and fall out of

Larry Drew

‘s rotation.

To his standards, Mayo had a bad 2013-14 campaign. Aside from 2010-11 with Memphis, Mayo’s numbers last season were career-worsts in points, assists, and shooting percentage. His lack of production helped contribute to a league-worst 15-win season, helping the Bucks land Jabari Parker with the second overall pick in June’s draft.

So after all, Bucks fans should be thanking Mayo for slacking last season.

In the preseason, Mayo has looked … different. That’s the best word to describe it, as he has not only slimmed down (weighing in at 210 pounds), but is hitting hit shots. After shaking off the offseason rust early on in the preseason, Mayo has had games of 13, 19, and 24 points, shooting 50 percent or better in all three games.

Mayo could be considered somewhat of a sharpshooter–or at least just a good 3-point shooter–shooting no worse than .364 percent from behind the arc in his career, and has shown that talent recently. In this good stretch of play, Mayo has shot 9-for-16 from 3, shooting 6-for-10 against the Knicks alone.

With so much young talent dressing up for the Bucks this season, there has been a lot of chatter around the league about who will be starting, and where. You could make a case that Brandon Knight starts at point guard or shooting guard. Giannis Antetokounmpo is listed as a shooting guard right now, but as any Greek Freak fan knows, he can play much bigger than that.

Parker thrives playing power forward, but could fare well at small forward if need be.

We don’t know if Ersan Ilyasova will start (not looking likely right now), and we don’t know if Kendall Marshall or Khris Middleton sneak onto the floor for tipoff.

After recent preseason play, you could now make a case for Mayo starting.

While Mayo was benched last season for poor conditioning, he’s in much better shape now and is displaying the offensive skills he tucked away last season. However, some savvy veterans–like Jamal Crawford–are better fits leading the second unit, and that might be the case for Mayo in Milwaukee.

Some people may not realize it, but this Bucks team really isn’t that bad. A lot of players from last year’s 15-win roster are still around, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Larry Sanders is still a good two-way center who can hopefully stay on the floor this season, Knight continues to grow and mature by the day, Middleton and John Henson could play major roles in Milwaukee’s rebuilding project, and of course Mayo has looked tremendous in the preseason thus far.

My starting lineup predictions have slightly changed throughout the preseason, but something that has stayed consistent is that Mayo will be coming off the bench. Middleton, after making major leaps in his game last season, has looked great in the preseason as well and should remain in the starting lineup as a shooting guard.

I still see Knight running the point, and Antetokounmpo playing small forward. Parker then plays the 4–where he belongs–and Sanders plays center. It wouldn’t surprise me if Jason Kidd changes things up even during the early goings of the regular season, but Milwaukee could compete with this lineup. But remember, this is still a rebuilding project.

Along with Mayo on the bench, Marshall, Ilyasova, Henson, and Zaza Pachulia looks to be the Bucks’ second unit. Not too shabby. I like it. Some young talent, along with the perfect mix of veteran leadership.

With this second unit, Mayo should thrive. He should break through the regular season gates and pop threes like there’s no tomorrow. He doesn’t have much to lose for a team that is recovering from such a bad season in 2013. And hey, with the way Mayo has been shooting as of late, hoisting five or more 3s a game might not even be the worst idea.

Along with a lot of players on this Bucks team, I see Mayo playing really well in 2014-15. With a new, slim body and a new coach running things, Mayo looks motivated to get back to what he was in his lone season with the Mavericks.

If he can get back to that point, the league might start talking about O.J. Mayo again.