O.J. Mayo is not Monta Ellis

Mayo deep yo

The Milwaukee Bucks have begun their last three seasons with three different starting shooting guards since the departure of Michael Redd’s knees.

Monta Ellis.

Stephen Jackson.

John Salmons.

And now the Bucks fourth shooting guard in the last four seasons will be O.J. (Ovinton J’Anthony) Mayo after he reportedly agreed to sign a 3-year/$24 million deal with the team.

The 25-year old guard out of USC was the 3rd pick in the 2008 NBA Draft and played for the Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks before his upcoming time in Milwaukee. He, like the three previous guards, scores and doesn’t do much else. His defense is below-average and his size, 6’4, is nothing to tell the cows.

But, outside of what seems like glaring similarities between Mayo and Ellis and Jackson and Salmons, Mayo is not them. He’s a much better shooter and he’s still young. So while this signing helps push the Bucks’ collective head back under the water of Mediocre Ocean, they definitely could’ve done a lot worse than O.J. Mayo.

In order to prove this, let’s compare O.J. Mayo to Monta Ellis. (I’m not looking at Jackson or Salmons because they’re awful.) We’ll start with the basics.

Mayo - 6 Ellis - 6
Mayo – 6
Ellis – 6

An ol’ fashioned 6-6 head-tie. Mayo sweeps the shooting categories and Ellis takes all the intangibles besides turnovers. Ellis could conceivably have 7 heads, but I gave FGA to Mayo because 17 field goal attempts per game at 41 percent shooting is stupid and should not be rewarded. But if you were to judge these two players solely off this incredible graphic, it would seem clear Mayo is a much better shooting guard. However, LET’S DIG A LITTLE DEEPER.

Here are the two player’s shot charts, via NBAwowy.

Mayo (left), Ellis (right)
Mayo (left), Ellis (right)
Blue = made; Red = missed

Some observations on these charts:

  1. Monta Ellis shoots and misses everywhere. It’s incredible.
  2. O.J. Mayo gets to the rim a lot less than Ellis. This explains his reduced assist numbers.
  3. Mayo stays on the right side for his mid-range and would give Brandon Jennings plenty of room to work on the left.
  4. Again. Mayo is simply a much better shooter than Ellis.
  5. NBAwowy! is great.

With these charts, it’s easy to see Ellis had a much higher usage rate, 26.3 percent, than Mayo, 20.9 percent, last year. (Ellis had the 17th highest usage rate of players who qualified for the points per game leader board.) But this makes sense with Ellis being the number one (sorry Brandon) scoring option for the Bucks last season. Mayo had this guy named Dirk Nowitzki on his team. However, Nowitzki missed the first 29 games of last season making Mayo the number one scoring option for the Mavericks. Let’s dig into those number real quick.

In the first 25 games for the Mavericks last season, O.J. Mayo averaged 20.6 points, 3.7 assists, and 4 rebounds per game on 48.8 percent from the field and 51.9 percent (!!!) from 3-point. These numbers, especially the 3-point percentage, are clearly remarkable and more than likely unable to be spread out across an entire season. But they’re promising as this was the only time in Mayo’s career when he was the main scoring option for a semi-lengthy period of time. During Ellis’ best season in the league, 2009-10 in Golden State, he put up far superior scoring numbers over 25 game stretches, but never the percentages Mayo displayed. And even with these incredible percentages from Mayo, he still shot less per game during the stretch, 14.8 FGA per game, than Ellis did all season. It’s astounding.

And this shooting talent is something which won’t deteriorate much with age. A surprising thing you see when you look back at Ellis’ game logs from his Golden State days is how infrequently he took 3-point shots. He averaged 2.4 3-point shots per game over his six seasons in Golden State. But now he feels like he must shoot more as his reduced explosiveness and speed have limited his ability to get to the rim. Ellis averaged four 3-point shots per game last season for Milwaukee. He’ll likely average more than that next season. And more than that the season after. Insert “DANGER KEEP AWAY” sign.

In addition, Mayo will rarely shoot the Bucks out of a game. When looking at the elusive “bad shooting night” statistic (15 FGA + < 40 FG% shooting), Mayo only accomplished this feat 7 times last season. Ellis? He did it 29 times. Twenty. Wait for it. Nine. In other words, 35 percent of Monta Ellis’ games last year were “bad shooting nights.”

Unfortunately, here comes the scary part. Mayo’s numbers plummeted once Nowitzki returned to the Mavericks lineup. In the 54 games following Dirk’s return, Mayo averaged 13.2 points, 4.7 assists, and 3.4 rebounds per game on 43.6 percent from the field and 35.3 percent from 3-point. That’s a classic 16.9 percent dip in 3-point shooting. But that percentage is still significantly higher than the awful 28.7 percent Ellis chucked up there all last season.

So where are we at? Mayo can clearly shoot better than Ellis. I’ve mentioned this, right? Ellis is a much stronger finisher at the rim, can create more on his own, and does a better job creating for others. He’s arguably a more talented overall basketball player than Mayo. He’s just inconsistent as all get-out.

For Mayo, it’s fair to say a problem last year was there were not a lot of people for him to create for on the Mavericks roster. He didn’t have the benefit of Larry Sanders alley-oops or Ersan Ilyasova at the top of the key or Mike Dunleavy coming off screens or Jennings randomly deciding to play well. Mayo’s assists were also the only major  statistic to rise upon Nowitzki’s return.

If you’re building a team, Mayo seems to obviously be the shooting guard you would pick between the two players moving forward. Are there better shooting guards in the league? For sure. Are there better shooting guards for the Bucks to have signed? Arguably not. If the Bucks goal is truly to win now, then Mayo is the correct signing … especially when he comes with a semi-reasonable, easily-tradeable contract.

All that said, there’s a disclaimer. I clearly believe Mayo is a far superior player to Ellis and someone who with the right team around him could be a solid contributor in the league. I’m excited that he’s only 25. I like that his first name is orange juice and his last name is Miracle Whip. But I also completely realize how useless this signing is for the Milwaukee Bucks franchise. All Mayo will add is wins to a team which won’t get many and the Bucks will simply find themselves back in the awkward 7th-10th seed position. I’m also worried about stuff like this.

So while it may not be fun and it may not be easy, it’s what we’re going to see. And we can do this.

Because in the end, we’re Bucks fans and we’re fully aware of what that requires.

Categories: The Off Season

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  1. Randall Delaney

    Hey, this is the best article I’ve read about the Bucks since the season ended. Great job, Jon!

    • SUPER job Jon! I agree with Mr. Delaney. Your piece is EASILY the best article I’ve read in a long time, and I’m not just talking basketball. You not only did your homework; you presented your case in a logical and well-organized manner. Damn! I’m pumped about O.J. Mayo now!

  2. I don’t think this keeps them out of the lottery. They will get younger and more talented next offseason, and with that, Mayo won’t be starting. Instead he’ll be the 3 point threat off the bench (and still a reasonably young threat). I like it.

  3. Hartzell bringing the thunda!

    A few points that I think are important.. Not sure why we ding OJ for assists when he was 4th among shooting guards is assists/game.. his assists were up when he was the primary ball handler and they decreased when he wasn’t, just like Monta

    Next, this is the most athletic team Mayo has been on by far, so I expect his stats to take a boost in that department with easy scoring opportunities and assists

    Last, as much as you may not like Brandon Jennings he is the best PG that OJ has played with (sorry Collison and Conley, but it’s true) and if Brandon gets the Drew effect like we are all hoping this could work out just fine

      • He means when Conley and Mayo played together not the Conley of right now. Even right now Id say Jennings is better for two reasons. Scott Skiles/Jim Boylan can not coach and I’m a homer.

  4. As far as free agency goes, we arguably got the best guard still available, and for a fair price. I think what is more important than either tanking or winning now is developing what we already have. We needed a SG who could start and we got one, so now we can actually have a team to play with and develop our young players. Whether or not we tank or end up in 8th again, creating a team around players that are not leaving, or leaving head coaches for that matter, is key to any success in the future, especially for a franchise like the Bucks. Chances are we’ll end up in the lottery anyways. Let’s just hope we make no more mistakes like the Harris trade again.

    I’m also hoping we can sign and trade Ellis, depending where he wants to go. Bucks could always use something for nothing.

  5. happyfeethustle

    An eye-opener article, and very easy to understand. Thanks for giving us dummies some red/blue charts to help us understand. Im relieved in the O.J. signing. Im hoping our new head coach, and assistants can help Mayo take full advantage of his potential. Im already on board with it!

    As for backcourt, ..still too much unsettled business. Jennings-staying, going? And if staying…is it for success of team OR to bolster his #s for next year F.A. ? I would rather Jennings moves on down the line …lets get some FRESH players in here. Too much bologna between Jennings and the front office. Teague still a possibilty? We still NEED to fill out a roster, lets all THINK POSITIVE ….hope & pray for good moves for our 2013/14 squad!!!!


  6. We owe Marquette some props, because I seriously doubt we get Mayo here and certainly not on these reasonable contractual terms if baby bro wasn’t playing for the Golden Eagles.

  7. My immediate reaction to this signing was one of relief. OJ is a decent scorer who doesnt demand 15+ shots a game and has more size(even if its only slightly more) than Monta. His salary is much easier to stomach then paying a volume shooter over $10mil and i like his upside more then Monta’s at this point in their respective careers. Lets assume Brandon gets resigned and we continue to start Larry Sanders and Ersan. That just leaves a hole at SF. I like Henson coming off the bench along with Ish, Carlos Delfino, and Zaza. I’m not saying this is a championship lineup but lets take it one step at a time and try and cultivate some chemistry for once. I think one thing that gets lost in the headlines shuffle is that Brandon has had to get used to having new starters on the court with him almost every season not to mention coaching changes. I’d like to see a string of 2-3 seasons with no major moves before i pass judgement on a player and team with young talent and upside. P.S. Amnesty Drew Gooden for the love of god we could use that cap space elsewhere on the roster!