Watching for the Comeback: O.J. Mayo

(Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

Where he’s been: In what’s worryingly becoming a trend, I’m looking at another Buck who had a disappointing ’13-14 season. He looked like, you know, the guy the Bucks thought they were getting with that $24 million free agent deal!… for the first handful of games, at least. Then he got dinged up. Then came the inquiries about his weight. Then came the near-career-low totals in points per game (11.3) and field goal percentage (40.7%). And man, did it ever seem like O.J. Mayo didn’t want to be in Milwaukee.

Then he ducked out on Media Day because of a conveniently timed physical. Oh, and his coach had this glowing report:

I saw him. He’s breathing. So, I don’t know if I have to revive him. I’m looking for him to have a good year.

So that’s a relief.

On the positive side, in places other than Milwaukee, Mayo has shown that he can be an effective basketball player. In his first two seasons in Memphis, in a starting role, Mayo showed glimpses of why he was picked #3 overall in 2008. He averaged 18 ppg in those two seasons while hitting over 38% of his three pointers and looked to be emerging as an honest-to-goodness NBA star.

What he does: In his career, when O.J. Mayo has been a starter, he has been very efficient at putting the basketball in the basket.

Points! Scoring! Not being out of shape!

In seasons where he started 81 or 82 games, Mayo never failed to score at least 15 points and shoot at least 43.8% from the field. To the contrary, when he started a small portion or none of his team’s games… it got ugly. So the key to a productive Mayo seems to be keeping him engaged, preferably with a successful team. When he’s right, O.J. can be a threat to drive, shoot the triple, or make defenses respect his decent midrange game. Heck, even after a disappointing Bucks season he’s still a career 38% three-point shooter.

Where he fits: With the current youth movement in full swing on this Bucks team, it’s tempting to discount Mayo as one of the “old vets” that doesn’t fit into the team’s future plans even though he’s still only 26 years old. That said, he can still fill the role that was surely envisioned for him from the moment he signed his free agent contract: a wing scorer and veteran presence on a young team. While some may roll their eyes at the idea of “fatty Mayo” mentoring the young Bucks, it’s still worthwhile to have a guy who knows both sides of the NBA coin–both success and difficulties–to be around to help young players (maybe even other very high draft picks?) work through the tough times and focus on working toward success. After all, he seems more than ready to forget the past as well:

“I don’t wanna talk about no weight,” Mayo said. “I wanna talk basketball, training camp and this upcoming season.”

“Last year is dead and buried,” Mayo told Charles Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Ya’ll can dig it up if you want.”

For his sake–as well as for the fortunes of the Bucks–that had better be true.

Categories: Player Profiles,Season in Preview Form: 2014

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  1. Maybe, for luck, we should start referring to him as Ovinton J’Anthony Mayo instead. You know, for luck…

    His college team did go “0-12” after all, he needs a little help I think.

  2. This might be crankiness and impatience on my part, but it seems that every minute that one of our veterans plays, even in the preseason, is time wasted that would be better spent on developing our younger players.

    I can’t think of one veteran who actually seems to be a positive for the Bucks in terms of actual contributions on the court or intangible benefits provided by their years of experience in the league — but I hope I’m wrong.