Milwaukee Bucks: The Impact Of O.J. Mayo

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Nobody would have guessed it, but the Milwaukee Bucks have found their unlikely leader in the form of O.J. Mayo.

It hasn’t been the season that most Milwaukee Bucks fans expected. At thirty games in, the peaks have been high at times and the valleys have been very low most times. The only consistency with this team is their lack of inconsistency.

Some fans may argue that this may have been design. Although the clear highlight this past off-season was the unlikely signing of Greg Monroe, the Bucks are now paying the consequences for the moves the team made in order to land him.

As a result, a lot of those deals haven’t sat well with the majority of, if not all, Bucks fans.

While there have been recent rumors to rectify some of those mistakes, there has been an unlikely leader born out of this in order to help guide this young Bucks squad to earn some wins now as the team takes the long road to greater success.

That leader is O.J. Mayo.

Admittedly, this was a frightening concept to accept entering the season.  After all, we were only a year removed from Mayo going through what’s now been referred to as his (as well as the team’s) “lost season.”

In retrospect, his numbers during that season are for the most part, up to par with the rest of his career.  However, what’s lost in all of that are the rumors of him being out of shape and the resulting DNP status he regularly earned in what later turned out to be the worst season in franchise history.

But Mayo jump-started his career after the arrival of coach Jason Kidd and made a huge contribution on and off the court for the improbable season the team would experience last year.

Now, Mayo has expanded on that role this season and has unexpectedly flourished as a very vocal leader for this young team and there’s no better example of what Mayo offers to this team than what we saw this past Friday night.

During just a bizarre week for the team in general, a war of words between the Bucks and the Golden State Warriors (mostly the Warriors) was had in anticipation of the rematch between both teams.

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Of course, The Warriors prevailed in the end, but Mayo sparked the team to give it their all and it definitely showed.

At the end of the game, Mayo confronted Warriors forward Draymond Green which led to a contentious moment between the two players but according to Ethan Strauss of ESPN.com, Mayo’s actions were all in defense of Bucks guard Michael Carter-Williams, who Green criticized earlier in the week:

"“I told [Green] he’s a heck of a player, but at the end of the day, that’s my teammate,” Mayo said. “Just respect my teammate as well as we respect you guys, and some things you shouldn’t say in the media. Show your class, you know.”"

Some may consider it brash, but it’s how Mayo goes about his business and his actions this year have truly been a 180 degree shift from what we saw during his first year in Milwaukee.

In general, Mayo has accepted whatever role that’s been given to him so far this season, whether that’s his usual sixth-man like role or the fairly recent run of games where he was the team’s starting point guard.

As far as his on court production goes, it’s been a mixed bag.

While Mayo has shown to be streaky shooter, his shooting numbers as they stand now have been nowhere near his usual efficient numbers that he’s put up in the past as he’s only shooting 39 percent from the field and a paltry 28 percent from beyond the arc (per NBA.com/stats).

But aside from his transformation as a leader for this team, arguably his biggest improvement so far this year have come on the defensive end as Mayo currently leads the team with a defRTG of 101.6 per 100 possessions.

It’s important to remember that Mayo missed the first 11 games of the season, but it still shows Mayo’s commitment to the team’s overall philosophy as he’s regularly shown calling out for defensive adjustments during games.

While all of this has been a great development to see, one player’s actions ultimately doesn’t change what we originally expected from the team at the beginning of the season.  It’s shaping up to be a long year as playoff expectations have softened with each passing week.

However, that shouldn’t diminish how Mayo has led by example this season and whether this role as a leader was ultimately forced upon him or not due to the moves made this Summer, he’s worn it exceptionally well as his impact goes a long way for a very impressionable, young Bucks team.

It’s still early to think about what this all means just yet for his future with the team as his contract expires at the end of the season, but for anyone thinking Mayo should be expendable as we start to enter the NBA trade season might have to think about that again.