Can O.J. Mayo Be Milwaukee Bucks' Star in 2013-14?

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Can O.J. Mayo Be Milwaukee Bucks' Star in 2013-14?
Sam Forencich/Getty Images

Can O.J. Mayo be the star the Milwaukee Bucks desperately need this season?

The simple answer is yes.

He possesses the offensive firepower the team needs at shooting guard and is still young enough to blossom into one of the league's best at his position.

If he's intent on becoming a star, though, the time is now.

In order to do so, he needs to revert back to the kind of numbers he posted during his rookie season with the Memphis Grizzlies. A slight resurgence in his numbers was seen in 2012-13—which is a good sign—but he'll need to build on that even more in Milwaukee.

He'll need to be more aggressive offensively, become a leader in the locker room and show a consistent effort on the defensive end.

 

Getting into Attack Mode

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Unlike his time with previous organizations, Mayo has the opportunity to be the number one guy for the Bucks. 

With the ability to put up huge numbers on any given night, his prowess as a scorer shouldn't be what is questioned. What should be, however, is his capability to do so consistently.

Part of that can be attributed to not attacking the rim enough.

No player is going to have his jump shot working every game. What separates the elite scorers from the good ones, though, is not relying on it. It's sometimes said that shooters should shoot themselves out of a slump, and while that may be partially true, there are other ways to break out of a shooting skid.

For his career, Mayo is a 81.7 percent free-throw shooter, but only gets to the line an average of 2.8 times. 

Not only is that far too low, but it's an indication that he isn't being as aggressive as he should be.

Mayo not being great off the dribble probably has something to do with that, but there are certainly other ways to get to the hoop.

Larry Sanders, Ersan Ilyasova and John Henson are all enough of an offensive threat to be adequate options in a pick and roll. If head coach Larry Drew puts the ball in Mayo's hands more often, he can be effective in those situations.

Milwaukee's offense suffered last season because of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings' poor shot selection. Mayo will need to do better in that department.

Field-Goal Attempts Per Game by Location
Season Total At Rim 3-9 Feet 10-15 Feet 16-23 Feet 3PT
2008-09 15.6 3.3 1.2 1.5 4.9 4.6
2009-10 14.4 3.9 1.2 1.0 4.0 4.3
2010-11 10.5 1.8 1.1 0.7 3.3 3.7
2011-12 11.2 2.4 1.0 0.7 2.9 4.2
2012-13 12.6 2.6 0.8 1.1 3.2 4.3

Hoopdata.com

As depicted above, Mayo spends a lot of time from 16 feet and beyond, and while he's definitely a good shooter, those numbers closer to the rim should be higher.

With 57.6 percent of his shots coming from that range, 2009-10 was his best year in terms of mixing it up. That season, he also attempted 3.9 shots per game at the rim and converted 64.5 percent of them.

Not coincidentally, that season was his most efficient and his second-most productive in terms of scoring.

During 2010-11, Mayo hardly got to the rim at all, but he has slowly been reversing the trend of that year for the past few seasons. If he can continue to be aggressive and draw fouls, he'll be an even better scorer.

 

Leading by Example

Danny Bollinger/Getty Images

While Mayo is far from being the oldest veteran on the roster, his likely significant role will force him to become a leader for the first time in his career.

In order to do so, he'll need to remain poised and show that he's matured.

At media day, Mayo took advantage of his platform and seemed to say all the right things, as is evident in the following tweet from the team's official Twitter account:

For someone who is going to be looked to for a good chunk of scoring, it's important to hear him say that the team—which includes himself—needs to have a selfless attitude. 

Despite making the playoffs, not being team oriented and being too focused on individual achievements was part of the reason why the Bucks weren't as successful as they could have been a season ago.

Mayo's comments prove that he—and most likely his teammates—know that.

And while having the proper attitude can only get you so far, it's a crucial step towards becoming a cohesive unit and getting things done on the court.

The roster, as it stands today, has every bit as much talent as the one that finished out the 2012-13 postseason.

What the team needs, though, is someone to step up and establish themselves as the leader of this new-look squad. Larry Sanders would figure to be one of the likely candidates, but his emotions get the better of him too often.

Mayo, then, needs to assert himself as the team's voice and help provide a sense of stability at one of the most important positions.

If he can, it'll go a long way towards earning him star status.

 

Playing Consistent, Hard-Nosed Defense

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Milwaukee's previous starting backcourt—Ellis and Jennings—didn't always exert maximum effort on the defensive end of the floor.

In order for the team to be successful this season, that will need to change.

While the length of frontcourt duo Sanders and John Henson can sometimes mask poor on-ball, perimeter defense, it's not something which should become habitual.

Opposing guards being able to get by their defenders puts the team's frontcourt players on an island. Despite Sanders and Henson both being capable shot-blockers, both are prone to foul trouble.

Mayo will never be an elite defender, but that's not the point.

With the interior defense they have, they aren't in desperate need of a lockdown defender on the perimeter. All they need is a consistent effort from their backcourt to relieve some of the pressure felt by guys such as Sanders.

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So long as Mayo's always giving maximum effort defensively and making his man work, the team's defense, as a whole, will be much better for it.

Sometimes offensive-minded players have the tendency of slacking on defense, but in order to maximize their value as players, it's something they cannot afford to do.

And Mayo is not exempt.

There's no doubt that he can be a star for the Bucks in 2013-14 because all of the talent is there. The real question is whether or not he will be. 

But if he can learn to attack more on offense, provide his team with leadership and put forth a consistent effort defensively, he just might become the star Milwaukee is looking for.

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