3 Reasons O.J. Mayo Needed a Change of Scenery to Prove His Ability
14 games into the Dallas Mavericks’ season and rather than perennial All-Star Dirk Nowitzki leading the charge (it's hard to do that when you're injured), newly acquired combo-guard O.J. Mayo is front and center. After two seasons of inconsistent play, the former third overall pick is finally playing up to his full potential, averaging a career high 21 points per game.
Although the Mavs are at an even .500 record, they have looked impressive in the absence of Nowitzki, and it’s largely thanks to Mayo’s newly inspired play. Let’s explore a few reasons why Mayo needed a change of scenery to finally break out.
A New Opportunity
For O.J. Mayo, the age old maxim of, “When one door closes, another door opens” couldn’t have been more accurate. When he was drafted by the Memphis Grizzlies a few years back, he was looked to be an immediate impact player, and at first, it seemed that he would be.
At the end of his rookie season, he was right behind Derrick Rose in the running for Rookie of the Year, but it wasn’t in the cards for Mayo to be a superstar for the Grizzlies.
By his third season, Mayo had bouts of inconsistent play, and as a result, Grizz' head coach Lionel Hollins decided to have Mayo come off the bench. For a young player like Mayo, such a move not only hurt his confidence, but it also prevented him from blossoming into a star.
Besides trouble on the court, he ran into some situations off of it as well. Getting into a fight with Tony Allen (the same guy that took his starting job) over a card game, and 10-game suspension after a failed drug test are hardly encouraging circumstances after you've been demoted to a sixth man.
Now that he’s in Dallas, the brand new contract and fresh start have likely done wonders for his game. It’s hard to quantify things like confidence or demeanor by looking at a stat sheet, but his entire demeanor in a Mavs uniform is nothing short of happy and relaxed.
You can tell he wants to play for Dallas, and you can attribute a lot of his newfound success to the freedom he has a starter—which is something any young scoring guard like Mayo wants on a team.
The new team represents more than a new jersey and new contract, for Mayo, it means he can finally put all of his past difficulties behind him and start anew.
Freedom to Fire at Will
For some players, you simply can’t come off the bench and consistently stay in rhythm throughout the course of a game. Now that Mayo is finally starting, he can finally get back to doing what he does best: shooting the ball.
Now one thing you can for sure quantify on a stat sheet is a player’s individual shooting percentage, and if you’re looking at Mayo’s three-point shooting statistics, they’re pretty impressive.
As of now, Mayo is shooting 53 percent from behind the arc, which is incredibly efficient. If you’ve been watching Mavs games this season, this won’t come as a shocker because in two of O.J.’s 30-plus point games this season, he’s shot a combined 13-for-18 behind the three point line.
Another interesting stat: The Dallas Mavericks have the third-best combined three-point shooting percentage (43 percent) as a team, and you can rest assured Mayo’s sharpshooting is a big part of it.
For a shooter like Mayo, this hot shooting is only going to continue as long has he stays aggressive and doesn’t let bad games bother him. He’s beginning to prove he can sustain his shooting output over the course of several games, and if his hot start is any indication, we’re only going to see more explosive outbursts later this season from Mayo.
There’s no question he’s always been a lights out shooter, but now that he has the freedom to be a starter, he can finally demonstrate his refined skills rather than being confined to the bench.
From Contending to Rebuilding
If you’re a professional competitor, the team you play for always comes first, but anyone with a competitive drive wants to prove they’re the best. When you consider Mayo’s past situation to this one, it may have been more beneficial to the team rather than his individual career.
On a team that had legitimate title aspirations in Memphis, Mayo was looked upon to sacrifice his playing time and ego for whatever was best for the team. Being the professional Mayo is, he took it in stride and accepted his newly appointed role, but obviously the situation wasn’t right for him as a player.
In the summer of 2010, the Grizzlies brought in veteran swingman Tony Allen, a hardnosed, defensive-minded player, and someone the Grizzlies looked to upon to be their stopper on defense. The acquisition of Tony Allen meant Mayo would eventually become the odd man out in the starting line-up, but in retrospect, the move makes sense for that Memphis team.
Looking at that Grizzlies team from a GM’s perspective, they probably wanted to win immediately rather than wait for Mayo to develop into a superstar of some sort, especially when they already had a fringe superstar in Rudy Gay. Since he was just a small part of a larger machine, Mayo could only keep quiet and do his job.
Fast forward to 2012, however, and Mayo’s entire situation has changed. Now that he’s on a team in rebuilding mode, the team’s transition in many ways is reflective of Mayo’s individual transition as a player. Throughout his career, Mayo’s role has shifted to go-to-guy, to role player, and finally back to the scoring catalyst once again.
Since this type of situation is going to be more conforming to a young player like Mayo, there is no pressure on him to deliver a championship to the city, well, at least not yet.