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.