*Editor’s note: This post was written by Justin Becker. Follow Justin on Twitter @NBAFantasyInfo.
What happened to OJ Mayo?
Funny you should ask. OJ Mayo is wondering the same thing.
Recently, Mayo came out publically and indicated how unhappy he was with his fluctuating playing time:
“It’s hard to get a rhythm when you don’t know what’s going to happen for you night in and night out. You may get six minutes, 30 minutes. There’s no staple to what we’re doing.”
I don’t blame him. It’s hard to develop an identity when the rotation changes nearly every game. Obviously, there is something wrong with OJ Mayo. Is it just the team’s identity, and can it be fixed? Those are the million dollar questions.
Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines rhythm as “a regular, repeated pattern of sounds or movements” and also “a regular, repeated pattern of events, changes, activities, etc.” Just take a look at Mayo’s minutes in his last five games: 30, 18, 7, 30, and 19. There is no way to develop the dictionary definition of rhythm when you play scattered minutes like Mayo has recently.
Mayo is used to being the focal point of an offense and always getting his. Last season, Mayo played for a Dallas team that was pretty much devoid of scoring for a large chunk of the season with Dirk Nowitzki injured. Dallas treated Mayo like their superstar and he flourished, averaging 15.3 points per game, 3.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists in 35.6 minutes per contest. This year, Larry Drew has Mayo playing just 27.8 MPG, and as you saw before, they aren’t exactly a consistent 27.8 minutes. Especially for a shooter like Mayo, it is nearly impossible to get in a shooting groove playing in inconsistent spurts. I can’t imagine he enjoys coming off the bench in a majority of games either. After averaging a four-year high in FG% last year, Mayo’s 39.7% FG this season would be the worst of his career if he finished at that mark. The difference in minutes has killed Mayo so I don’t blame him for being upset. Obviously, the field goal percentage can be associated with the playing time drop/deviation. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out. The weird part is Mayo is actually averaging more points per 36 minutes this season (probably because he’s just hoisting up shots whenever he gets the chance to shoot). A frustrated superstar has the tendency to try and just get his. If Drew continues on this minutes path, there is no hope for OJ. A shooter just needs to know how his role in order to get comfortable. Unfortunately, I’m not sure if there are bluer skies ahead.
Milwaukee possesses this kid they call the “Alphabet.” His name, of course, is Giannis Antetokounmpo. Alphabet is one hell of a young prospect. Despite standing 6 feet, 9 inches tall, GA plays the two guard. Giannis does not score like OJ Mayo but he impacts the game in just about every other aspect. Per 36 minutes, Antetokounmpo averages 7.2 REB, 2.6 AST, 1.0 STL and 1.5 BLK. His incredible wingspan enhances his solid defensive ability, much better than that of OJ Mayo. In recent games, Antetokounmpo has started at shooting guard, but in the last few Drew has gone with Luke Ridnour. Really? Luke Ridnour over OJ Mayo, the star you signed in the off-season? I don’t really understand what they are doing. I love Antetokoumpo, but he can play small forward for the majority of his minutes. Milwaukee isn’t exactly a team loaded with scoring and Ridnour certainly won’t provide much. The good news for Mayo fans is Ridnour sprained his wrist in the last contest, but that will only leave him as day-to-day. Actually the news could have been worse (the team feared a fracture). Maybe, just maybe, Drew will start Mayo in Ridnour’s absence and spark something. But I doubt it. Mayo is just a lost cause with a coach not willing to commit to him as “the guy.” Drew is just much more concerned with playing everyone he likes at whichever point he feels like. If Milwaukee didn’t want to commit to him, they shouldn’t have signed him. Getting rid of a low percentage shooter could actually help the team: just look at the Raptors trading Rudy Gay. Maybe that would be the best solution for all parties. I’m sure someone would be interested in that type of reasonably young (26) scorer.
So what happened to OJ Mayo? The short answer is Larry Drew’s rotation. Milwaukee has put the wrong coach at the helm that just doesn’t care whether Mayo is happy. I guess the general manager just doesn’t care about the 3 year, $24 million handed to Mayo this off-season. The team’s direction seems like it does not include OJ Mayo. I foresee Milwaukee making some sort of deal before the deadline. I’m just hoping Mayo is the first one out of town. If he doesn’t get exiled from this cancerous situation, his numbers will continue to be doomed. It’s just that simple. I wanted to look at things from the optimistic perspective, but in this case, there just is none. If Mayo stays, Alphabet is the superstar of the future. For a hopeless team like Milwaukee, developing him takes precedent to the selfish scorer. So get used to the pine, Mr. Mayo, you’re probably going to be there awhile.