How Much Should the Dallas Mavericks Offer O.J. Mayo on His Next Contract?

Ross BentleySenior Analyst IDecember 26, 2012

BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 12:  O.J. Mayo #32 of the Dallas Mavericks has the ball knocked out of his hands by Rajon Rondo #9 of the Boston Celtics in overtime during the game on December 12, 2012 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Despite the teams overall struggles, no player has been a better surprise this year for the Dallas Mavericks than O.J. Mayo.

Mayo was signed in the offseason in the Mavs' last effort to form a formidable squad this season. 

Dallas had high hopes for Mayo after seeing what he did in his first two years in the league in Memphis when he was given the chance to start.

Although his numbers had dropped off when he was relegated to a sixth-man role, Mayo still showed flashes that he could be a dominant scorer if given the opportunity.

Dallas was able to lure Mayo despite several other offers on the table, and he has delivered in a big way.

Mayo is averaging 19.3 PPG as of December 26, good enough for 13th-best in the NBA. Mayo had been in the top 10 for most of the year before a recent slump has seen him drop off.

Still, the reason the Mavericks are even anywhere close to relevant in the Western Conference right now is largely due to Mayo's performance.

Mayo is not only scoring with a high volume, but also has been efficient shooting the basketball, has been deadly from beyond the arc and has been an effective passer.

He has gone over the 25-point mark already in eight different games this season, and has been over 30 three different times.

For a player who is in his first year with a new team, and given his first real chance to be a No. 1 option on offense, Mavericks fans have to be pleased with Mayo's performance and excited to see how he can play with Dirk Nowitzki now that he has returned to the lineup.

One of the reasons Mayo likely opted to sign with the Mavericks this offseason is the amount of flexibility he had in the deal.

Although Mayo is making just above $4 million this season, he could be gone after this season if he chooses. 

Mayo has a player option for next season worth just $200,000 more than he is making in the 2012-2013 season.

More likely than not, for a player that is scoring nearly 20 points a game, that option will be declined and Mayo will have a chance to play wherever he wants next season.

If Mayo doesn't feel as though the Mavericks are serious enough about keeping him, he could opt to go elsewhere. However, if Mark Cuban and company put the right amount of money on the table, O.J. Mayo could be a Dallas Maverick for a long time.

But just how much money would be appropriate to offer Mayo next year?

Remember, the Mavericks will once again be flooded with cap space for the 2013 offseason.

Only four players, Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Jared Cunningham and Jae Crowder, have guaranteed contacts with the Mavericks for next season.

If the Mavericks really wanted to, they could overhaul their entire roster and start from scratch once again in the 2013-2014 season.

The fate of players like Darren Collison, Elton Brand, Chris Kaman and Vince Carter could be largely based on how well the Mavericks fare in signing other free agents.

Dallas will likely look to make a big splash with all the cap room it has available. The Mavs were unable to lure any big names last offseason, but if they are able to present a one-two combination of Nowitzki and Mayo it could be enough to convince a top-notch free agent to sign with the team.

The Mavericks should have no problem signing Mayo and one other big-name free agent, assuming they are willing to give up a little in terms of the rest of their roster.

Dirk has the second-biggest contract in the NBA behind Kobe Bryant, so adding two more max contracts will make the cap tight in 2013-2014, although that will be necessary to become contenders.

Signing Mayo will be the first step, however, once he opts out of his player option. 

When you take a look at this chart, you will see how Mayo's salary compares to the highest-paid shooting guards in the NBA this season. 

*Numbers expressed are in millions.

Mayo is making about $15.7 million less than Joe Johnson, the second-highest-paid shooting guard in the league behind Kobe Bryant. Yet he is averaging more points per game than Johnson this year.

For what it's worth, of the seven highest-paid shooting guards in the NBA, only Kobe and D-Wade are scoring more this season than Mayo.

Because of this you know that the price for keeping Mayo in a Maverick uniform will be high. Mayo and his agent aren't stupid; even though all indications may be that he is happy in Dallas, Mayo knows this is his big chance to cash in.

There will likely be teams from throughout the league in his ear trying to sway him and also driving up the price of Mayo's contract. 

In the end, though, if the Mavericks are fair and reasonable, they should be able to re-sign him. The correct amount to sign Mayo has to be between $15-16 million per season for five seasons.

With any luck, that should be enough to keep Mayo happy, although they may need to push it a bit higher.

That would make Mayo the NBA's fourth-highest-paid shooting guard based on the contracts that are currently in place for this season. 

Signing Mayo should be priority No. 1 for the Mavericks this offseason, and although it may be expensive, it is worth it to keep a potential 20-points-a-game scorer with the team.

Having Mayo in a Mavericks uniform ensures that if nothing else, the franchise knows it will have an heir apparent to replace Dirk Nowitzki once he retires, and a lethal scoring duo while he is still playing.