7 Contenders That Will Roll out Red Carpet for OJ Mayo
O.J. Mayo is about to go from being a player who had been one of the hottest names on the trade wire for the last two seasons to being a hot name on the free-agent market. Some may wonder whether the Memphis Grizzlies will make the most of the four-year pro's value by making a sign-and-trade if they can't re-sign him.
A Grizzlies fan asked that of Memphis Flyer reporter Chris Herrington via Twitter:
@strauss0983 O.J. is a restricted free agent. More likely to walk than get (sign-and-) traded, though that's a possibility too.
— Chris Herrington (@FlyerGrizBlog) May 14, 2012
Herrington acknowledged that a sign-and-trade deal is possible. Those Grizzlies fans who want the Grizzlies to either re-sign him or get the most out of him by pulling a sign-and-trade deal can hope for that.
However, as Herrington pointed out, such a deal is unlikely since it isn't common.
The Grizzlies can match any offer put forth on Mayo because he's a restricted free agent. However, teams might push the Grizzlies' desire to retain Mayo by driving up the price.
Several teams will be looking to sign Mayo, just as a significant number of teams tried to get him in trades this season and last season.
Mayo wants to play point guard, according to Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal. Mayo is also likely looking to start. Thus, teams looking to sign Mayo should be either open to change at point guard or willing to experiment with a duel-guard system.
Following is a list of teams that will seriously pursue Mayo.
The Grizzlies have a couple of advantages in the derby to acquire Mayo's services. First, they can match any offer put forward by another team since Mayo's a restricted free agent.
Second, the Grizzlies have great chemistry. They're a tight-knit group that hangs together. Many of the players practiced together and did Impact Basketball together during the lockout last year.
A problem arises with both of these points. The Grizzlies won't match just any offer for Mayo. Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley doesn't want to spend beyond the luxury tax threshold, as he reiterated to The Commercial Appeal on May 15. The Grizzlies currently have $62.5 million committed to nine players for the 2012-13 season.
If a team decides that Mayo is worth $10 million or more to them, then the Grizzlies likely won't match the offer.
Now, if Mayo were to stay in Memphis, he would have to remain the sixth man playing behind Tony Allen and Mike Conley. With four years left on his contract, Conley isn't going anywhere. Allen will be in the last year of his deal next season, but Mayo probably wouldn't want to wait another year to start.
Mayo did acknowledge the possibility of returning to Memphis, saying in the aforementioned Commercial Appeal article, "Why not stay around and finish it out and see where we can get?"
Grizzlies fans may question the seriousness of Mayo's rhetorical question. They'd probably wonder in reply why Mayo would stay around if he saw money as more intriguing than winning a championship with the team that drafted him.
The Chicago Bulls have a huge problem at point guard that they couldn't have seen coming before the season started. Derrick Rose is out eight to 12 months while recovering from ACL surgery, according to Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com. That means he'll be back around midseason next year at the earliest, but he might miss the entire season.
The Bulls have to be prepared to get through the 2012-13 season without the star who made the team as good as it was the last two years. They can't turn to C.J. Watson, Rose's backup who served as a fill-in starter this season.
Watson had surgery on both feet to treat his plantar fasciitis for the second year in a row, according to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune. Also, Watson played through nagging ankle and elbow injuries.
Those injuries will take a toll on Watson and leave him as a poor option as a starter for a full season.
The other backups from last year, Mike James and John Lucas III, are free agents and wouldn't be candidates to start. Lucas struggled to hit shots and distribute the ball effectively. James can shoot and make good decisions, but he's only been a starter in four of his 11 NBA seasons. He hasn't started since 2008-09 at age 33.
Mayo would be a better option than Watson, Lucas and James to start. He's a healthy, aggressive shooter who can create opportunities. Mayo probably wouldn't fill Rose's shoes completely, but he should be able hold his own.
New York Knicks
The New York Knicks might have thought that they had their point guard when Iman Shumpert came into his own after Jeremy Lin went down. Those thoughts were dashed when Shumpert suffered a horrible injury in the first-round series against the Miami Heat, tearing his meniscus and ACL. According to Alex Raskin of NJ.com, he'll miss six to eight months.
There's no telling if Shumpert will be the same player when he comes back due to the nature of his injury.
Some might say that Jeremy Lin would be a great replacement if the Knicks re-signed him.
However, that's a laughable idea. The player who was a six-game flash in the pan in February wouldn't be a capable point guard for a full season. Lin couldn't control the ball. He averaged 3.6 turnovers per game and turned it over in 21.4 percent of plays.
After Lin's hot stretch in February, he only shot 40 percent from the field in March.
Lin might ink a huge contract this offseason, but it won't lead him to a starting role.
Mayo could be the guy to fill the role for New York. He could do well running the floor, giving it to Carmelo Anthony when Anthony demands the ball and taking his own shots when he finds the right opportunity.
The Indiana Pacers are sure to have a problem at point guard after this season's finished. Darren Collison had started at point guard for most of the season, but after he became injured, Frank Vogel found reason to give the starting role to George Hill. Hill has started ever since, but he is anything but a natural point guard.
Hill averaged 9.6 points and 2.9 assists per game in the regular season. He had four games with six or more assists in a game while starting the last nine games of the season. However, in the playoffs, he didn't do as much facilitation, averaging 13 points and 2.7 assists per game.
He hasn't had more than five assists in a game.
His usage rate has been only 19.5 percent in the playoffs, showing that he hasn't been as involved as one would expect the point guard to be.
Hill will be a free agent after the season. The Pacers wouldn't have any problem re-signing him, but he may not return to the point guard role on a team that was next to last in assists in the regular season (18.6 per game).
Mayo would effectively address that issue. He's aggressive and demands to control the flow of the offense when he's on the court. His usage rate was 23.9 percent, second best among players in the Grizzlies' rotation. Mayo has the court vision to see opportunities and make things happen.
Jameer Nelson is a decent point guard and has filled his role nicely, but he's not getting any better. He averaged 14.3 points per 36 minutes this season, his second-lowest average in his career. He shot a career-low 42.7 percent from the field.
While his 5.7 assists per game were the second-best mark of his career, it's not impressive, nor does it hold up against his 2.4 turnovers per game and 17.4 percent turnover rate.
Nelson is 30 years old. Since he never became much better with each passing season, one can't expect much from him in what are thought to be his peak years.
Also, the Orlando Magic face a period of uncertainty. Stan Van Gundy was fired on Tuesday, per Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. Also, though his option has been exercised for the 2012-13 season, Dwight Howard could still be traded.
The Magic need a new point guard for whatever comes to pass. If the Magic lose Howard, the team needs a point guard who can reasonably put up solid scoring figures while facilitating the offense. Mayo would be that guy since he can control the ball and score in bunches.
Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers received nice support from Ramon Sessions in the latter part of the season after acquiring him from the Cleveland Cavaliers. Sessions averaged 12.7 points and 6.2 assists per game while shooting 47.9 percent from the field.
Sessions will likely exercise his player option to return to the Lakers next season, as Mike Trudell of KCAL-TV Los Angeles tweeted.
However, the Lakers might not believe that Sessions is the type of point guard who can bring the team back to the NBA Finals. Sessions averaged 9.7 points per game on 37.7 percent shooting while dishing out 3.6 assists per game in the playoffs.
The Lakers might wonder if Sessions can be an effective point guard for a whole season for a good team since he has never done it before.
They might want to install Mayo in that role. Mayo has been to the playoffs twice with a hard-driving Grizzlies team. While he didn't do well in this year's playoffs (27 percent shooting), Mayo was good in last year's playoffs, averaging 11.3 points per game while shooting 38.8 percent from the field and 40.8 percent from three-point range.
Mayo scored 14 or more points in five games in the series against the Oklahoma City Thunder last year.
Mayo has shown that he can succeed in the clutch. He'd be able to play with the desire necessary to match Kobe Bryant's ambition. Bryant would be pleased by that.
Portland Trail Blazers
The Portland Trail Blazers will be looking at big changes in the franchise. They're looking for a new coach and general manager this offseason.
Finding a new point guard would transform the team, adding one of only a couple of pieces that are missing. Raymond Felton is a nice point guard. However, he's never distinguished himself as a strong point man who can help a team turn the corner.
He'll score a decent amount (11.4 points per game this season) and dish out assists (6.5 per game), but he doesn't have great court presence.
Mayo has that presence. He controls the ball well, sees plays develop and doesn't turn it over that much for the amount of time he holds the ball.
Mayo's abilities for the point are enough to help the Trail Blazers return to the midst of the playoff picture.
They just need a coach capable of helping them reach that point.