If the 2012-13 Dallas Mavericks are going to be successful, a true second option must emerge from their new-look core.
For years, Jason Terry, despite coming off the bench, was the Mavs' second weapon after Dirk Nowitzki. "The Jet" was a reliable player to pair next to Nowitzki and he came through in many ways, particularly through scoring and also through leadership. Both teammates and fans fed off everything Terry brought to the table.
With Terry removed from the picture, the Mavs are in search of a second option from one of their new additions over the summer.
In the offseason, Dallas added, amongst others, guards O.J. Mayo and Darren Collison and veteran big men Chris Kaman and Elton Brand.
One of these players will become Dirk's chief sidekick, because the rest of the Mavs roster doesn't feature anyone capable of embracing such a role. Shawn Marion and Vince Carter could have taken these roles in 2002, but not now, and Rodrigue Beaubois and Brandan Wright will be lucky if they see regular minutes this upcoming season.
Out of the newcomers, the player who desperately needs to become the Mavs' second option is Mayo — both for the Mavs and for himself. Mayo is the most skilled of their additions and is just 24-years old. As a rookie in 2008-09, he averaged 18.5 points per game and looked like a budding superstar.
Since then he hasn't made major strides (he averaged just 12.6 PPG last season), but the potential remains.
How will O.J. Mayo perform this season?
For his sake, he must display realized potential or else he'll soon fall into the category of: "didn't live up to the hype." He's simply at the stage where a breakout season is necessary, and he has this opportunity right in front of him in Big D. He should receive ample minutes and opportunities to become a high-level shooting guard.
Further, the Mavs need Mayo to reveal All-Star caliber play. If Dallas hopes to compete with teams like Oklahoma City and the Los Angeles Lakers, Mayo must become a steady 20 PPG type of player who adds a whole new dimension to what Dallas does offensively. If he doesn't, the Mavs don't have any hope banging with the big boys of the Western Conference.
The reality is that if Mayo doesn't become Dallas' second option, they're in major trouble — so much trouble that a playoff spot could be in jeopardy.
This is because no one else on Dallas' roster should be a second weapon. Kaman and Brand are more than serviceable big men, but they are not suited to be second options for a contending team. They are much better-suited as third, fourth, or fifth options.
And Collison is remarkably quick and skilled at getting his teammates involved, but in a league full of gifted point guards, he will simply never fall into the elite category of floor generals. He can surely help the Mavs, but it's not like we will witness Collison outshining Russell Westbrook or Tony Parker on a consistent basis.
The Mavs do possess an array of new weapons who will undoubtedly contribute, but Mayo is the one who must step to the forefront and become the secondary weapon. If he reaches his ceiling, he could become an All-Star and develop into as potent a player as James Harden or Eric Gordon.
If Mayo makes these strides, then the new-look Mavs may find themselves securing home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs and potentially making noise deep into May and June.
But it's all dependent on Mayo and if this is the season in which he breaks out and showcases his undeniable upside.