NBA Free Agency 2012: Top 5 Destinations for O.J. Mayo
O.J. Mayo started his career remarkably well as the starting shooting guard on the Memphis Grizzlies. In his rookie year, Mayo averaged 18.5 points per game while showcasing his exceptional shooting range and scoring instincts.
Unfortunately, it all went downhill from there.
As the Grizzlies grew into a better team, Mayo diminished into a lesser player, going from reliable scorer to an inconsistent bench player. However, talent does not simply vanish, and it stands to reason that, even three years after his rookie season, Mayo still has the potential to average close to, or maybe even above, 20 points per game in the right situation.
As an unrestricted free agent, Mayo now has the opportunity to search for that ideal situation.
But where might his search take him?
5. Atlanta Hawks
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With the starting shooting guard spot now up for grabs in Atlanta, Mayo would easily wrestle the starting gig from the clutches of Anthony Morrow and Tracy McGrady and would have the opportunity to be a go-to scoring option for a playoff team.
Although the Hawks may be hesitant to spend the big bucks it could take to reel in Mayo, they now desperately need a player capable of creating offense from the wing, and the allure of a starring role could enable them to snag Mayo at a discounted price.
4. Minnesota Timberwolves
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Mayo was originally drafted third-overall in the 2008 draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves.
However, he never played a single minute for the team. He was immediately traded to the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for the fifth selection, Kevin Love, in a swap that turned out to overwhelmingly favor the Timberwolves.
While the Timberwolves clearly didn't need Mayo in 2008, they could certainly use him now.
Minnesota has built a strong core going forward, in Love and Ricky Rubio, but has lacked consistency from its wing players. Former lottery picks Wesley Johnson and Martell Webster have played terribly in their respective stints at the starting 2-guard spot, and the Wolves could use a wing who, like Michael Beasley, can score but, unlike Beasley, can also defend.
The Star Tribune reports that Minnesota is currently targeting restricted free agent Nicolas Batum to fortify the perimeter, but in the likely event that Portland matches David Kahn's offer to Batum, Mayo could be an excellent fallback.
3. Utah Jazz
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The Utah Jazz narrowly squeezed into the Western Conference's final playoff spot this year, largely due to the contributions of their excellent frontcourt featuring Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors.
Utah's backcourt, on the other hand, failed to contribute its fair share to winning games.
Utah has taken the first step towards addressing this issue by adding Mo Williams at point guard—a clear upgrade over the oft-injured and rapidly diminishing Devin Harris. However, despite the potential of Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks, the wing positions still have room to improve.
Utah could improve its fortunes greatly by signing Mayo to be the starting 2-guard.
Such a move would allow Hayward to slide to his natural small forward spot and would allow the Jazz to surround Jefferson and Millsap with a cast of formidable shooters to help spread the floor.
Utah stands as another great destination for Mayo, as a place where he could boost his numbers and land an important role on a fairly competitive team.
2. Boston Celtics
Try as they might to deny it, the Celtics’ big three model is unraveling, and with Ray Allen’s departure seeming ever more imminent, the time has come to bring in new blood and recast Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett as mentors rather than franchise figures.
Rajon Rondo needs new passing targets. O.J Mayo is a good start.
The Celtics seem to like Avery Bradley as a defensive stopper at the 2-guard spot, so they would be well-suited to bring in a scoring guard accustomed to coming off the bench. As the Celtics’ sixth man, Mayo could serve as the focal point of Boston’s second unit while still earning close to 30 minutes per game.
In Memphis, Mayo often struggled to find touches under the shadow of Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. In Boston, Mayo could step right into the role previously occupied by Allen and potentially see his scoring figures return to a similar level as in his first two seasons in the league.
Furthermore, Mayo would benefit from having arguably the league’s best passer feeding him off of curls and on the fast break.
Boston wants to revitalize its title hopes, and Mayo wants to revitalize his career. Win-win.
1. Phoenix Suns
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The Phoenix Suns’ selection of Kendall Marshall in the 2012 NBA draft was a clear admission to the fact that the Steve Nash era has come to a close. Nash will likely leave Phoenix for the chance to chase a title or represent his country in Toronto.
With that, the Suns must enter an accelerated rebuilding mode.
Step one: revamp the wing positions. Despite a passable frontcourt featuring Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris, the Suns will likely struggle to find consistent scoring options without the magic hand of Nash to direct the offense. Marshall should develop into a suitable replacement, but in the meantime, the Suns need to add some scoring punch from the wing slots.
Enter O.J. Mayo.
During his rookie and sophomore seasons, Mayo averaged 18.5 and 17.5 points per game, respectively, displaying the ability to be an effective go-to option in the right situation. Phoenix’s up-tempo offense would give Mayo the freedom to attack the lane in transition and spot up for open shots off of pick-and-rolls.
In Phoenix, Mayo would get the opportunity to play to his strengths while raking in a high salary. Seems like a dream scenario.