Miami Heat President Pat Riley should have trusted his gut with the No. 2 pick in the 2008 NBA draft and taken O.J. Mayo instead of Michael Beasley.
Riley, long known for his purported arrogance, seems to have gone soft as he should have refused to listen to the fans, sports analysts, mock draft pundits, and his own basketball people who convinced him that Beasley, then a freshman power forward out of Kansas State, was a better pro prospect than USC freshman combo guard O.J. Mayo.
Beasley was considered the consensus No. 2 selection prior to the draft by nearly the entire basketball world. Yet, despite his blatant offensive genius, it was reported by ESPN that his personality was a major turnoff and cause of concern for Riley.
Riley was instead rumored to be enamored with Mayo, whom he felt could be a lethal pairing with superstar Dwayne Wade. Riley felt that Mayo’s ball handling, passing ability, limitless shooting range, and sticky defense proved to be a perfect backcourt compliment to Wade.
It now appears that well after a year from the 2008 NBA draft, Riley was right and the world was wrong, as Mayo has shown ample evidence that he is the better pro than Beasley.
This is little consolation to Riley, mind you, considering that Riley listened to the world and is stuck with Beasley while watching Mayo help pull the Grizzlies—yes the Memphis Grizzlies—out of the doldrums.
All the pre-draft concerns about Beasley have proved well founded; he is a classic "tweener" forward who can’t find a real position, his defensive attitude has been awful, he has problems scoring when not shooting at a high volume, and his mental stability has repeatedly come into question.
Beasley has also had trouble forming a tangible chemistry with Dwyane Wade, as neither seems to feed off one another offensively. Beasley’s main issue in the pros is not his height or weight, but his lack of athleticism. He lacks the jumping ability to play above the rim or first-step explosiveness to get past defenders off the dribble.
Mayo, on the other hand, has provided consistent heady play and leadership for the young Memphis Grizzlies. Mayo has proved not to be a greedy ball hog, instead the ball moves freely from his hands to his teammates, while only scoring within the framework of the offense or when a play breaks down and needs rescuing.
And Mayo is just scratching the surface of his NBA potential, as he seems capable of joining a rare elite club of shooting guards who average 20 points, five rebounds, and five assists per game in a season. Combine Mayo’s innate offensive know how with his pesky on-the-ball defense, and he has a chance to be one of the NBA’s top 15 players, something Beasley can never say.
If only Riley had trusted his gut and taken Mayo over Beasley, his public evisceration wouldn’t have lasted very long; it would have quickly become evident that Wade and Mayo are perfect for one another.
Sadly though, at the end of the day, Mayo and Wade playing together is just a fantasy, one of those sad “what ifs”, like the idea of the Hawks taking Chris Paul instead of Marvin Williams.
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