OJ Mayo never found his place in Memphis. Rotating roles from starter to sixth man, he never shined like many thought he would when he came out of USC. The third overall pick had lofty expectations that sprouted from being the most highly touted high school prospect since Lebron James and Carmelo Anthony.
An outstanding rookie campaign placed him second in voting for Rookie of the Year behind Derrick Rose. And it probably could’ve been the worst thing to happen to Mayo.
In his third and fourth seasons, Mayo failed to live up to those expectations that his followers laid out before him. He couldn’t keep up. And thus he found himself in an unfamiliar environment: On the bench, and the Grizzlies felt that he wasn’t the player he was supposed to be, allowing him to walk free.
Last Summer Mayo signed with the Dallas Mavericks as an unrestricted free agent to the most modest of modest contracts imaginable for a smooth-shooting sixth man, at the very least. Looking to bolster their backcourt after losing Jason Kidd and just the general aging of the squad as a whole, Mayo was the perfect combination of youth and experience and potential and proven ability. He was the clear-cut choice to come in and start immediately. And he’s dong exactly what the Grizzlies wanted him to do the last two seasons for the Mavericks right now.
Mayo’s exceeding all of his career totals in all of the main offensive categories, including eFG% (60%), TS% (64%), and PER (20.29). He’s a huge reason that the revitalized, Dirk-less Mavericks are fourth in the league in offensive efficiency and eFG%.
The currently star-less Timberwolves were in dire need of some backcourt depth, just like the Mavs, this past summer. They decided to take a risk on the knee-bent Brandon Roy. By convincing David Kahn, Glen Taylor and the Wolves fanbase to take a leap and give him a chance, he was given a bold two year, $10 million deal.
The expectations, like that of Mayo in Memphis, set by Minnesota fans were paramount. The preeminent factors involved Roy’s history of near-Kobe-Bryant levels of production that seemed like just yesterday. Just like Mayo, Roy had a past so tantalizing, so seducing that we can’t help but create a phony set of standards for their performance. Acquiring a once-superstar who’s still young enough to pray for a comeback is the root of fans’ expectations for Roy. The fans fell for his convincing story, management fell for it, and I’m pretty sure even Roy himself swayed himself that his comeback was feasible.
But here we are. Roy has now missed the last three games due to knee “soreness,” and his return is all but sure as of right now (He’s reportedly wishing for a Friday night return against Golden State). No one has an exact answer to the reason but it’s a fair assessment that the comeback has not gone as planned according to anyone’s account. The games he has played in have been ugly. Averaging just under six points a contest, a 31% shooting percentage and defense that resemble that of an old-time swinging saloon door.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to put together the facts: Mayo has been fantastic; Roy has been awful. The Mavs made a brilliant move signing Mayo for two years, $8 million; The Wolves got swindled signing a washed-up superstar for two years, $10 million. Mayo’s bid for a “comeback” season has trumped anything that Roy has done to this point in his return to the NBA. It makes you wonder, “What if…” What if the Wolves had chosen another option over Roy? What if they had decided that Mayo’s youth and shooting range outweighs Roy’s risky knees and potentially beautiful comeback fairy tale? What if, just for once, things just swung in favor of the lonely Wolves? What if…?
Roy has a chance to make his mark on this team still. It’s by no means a longshot to think he can’t return to the lineup and do some good things. But it’s time to give up on the expectations, folks. He’s not the Roy he used to be nor will he ever come close. Mayo, on the other hand, would sure be useful right about now. He’s efficient, he’s shooting threes and, most importantly, has no knee issues; everything the Wolves want and need right now from a 2-guard in a desperate time, where players in suits outnumber reserves on the bench.
The Wolves had Mayo once before — sorta. And they passed on him then. They decided to pass him up again. What will come of it? Only time will tell but you have to admit, even in just a small sample size to start the season, the Wolves are going to get burned. I’m hungry.