So far this week, Chip has covered the Point Guards and Small Forwards. In terms of competition for playing time, those two are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Throughout this offseason, many people have thought that the Shooting Guard position would be closer to SF than PG regarding that area of expectations. As usual, I have a slightly different perspective on what is going to take place this season as everyone anticipates the introduction of Ovinton J'Anthony Mayo to the NBA.
Will O.J. Mayo start the most games at SG this year barring injury? Yes.
Will O.J. Mayo rival Rudy Gay's death grip on playing time for his position? No...and here's why. First, Mayo is a rookie and we all know what that means: transition and the dreaded "rookie wall". Second, he has another young guard by the name of Javaris Crittenton on the roster that will garner some playing time this year, too. Third, the team will probably give some token playing time to Marko Jaric at that position to keep his trade value at something above the "Cardinal Line" (the Mendoza Line for trade bait) this year. Finally, Mayo is a long-term investment for this team, so they want him to get enough PT to gain experience, but no too much, which leads to unnecessary wear-and-tear on young players and can contribute to nagging injuries.
So let's look at how they all break down.
O.J. Mayo - There hasn't been a rookie arrive in Memphis with this level of expectations since.....well....ever, to be quite honest. Some people are expecting him to win Rookie of the Year and score 20 ppg. Others believe that he will be the Superstar that the team has been searching for. My expectations (as per usual) are a little milder than that. I expect that Mayo will be a solid, if erratic, contributor this season, providing good defense and perimeter shooting, along with some decent playmaking ability from the off-guard spot early on. If he continues to make shots as well as he has recently (reportedly he's making everything in sight in pickup games with his teammates), then he could post some very solid numbers in his rookie campaign. Even though I stated above that I don't expect him to have a stranglehold on playing time, I do expect Mayo to average 24-28 mpg this year. Mayo's determination and drive to succeed could be the turning point in this franchise as they look to climb the ladder back into the postseason in the future.
Javaris Crittenton - Critt was the subject of much scrutiny after the trade last year that sent Pau Gasol to Los Angeles. Mostly this was because he was the only player coming back in the deal that gave the home fans any hope, since everyone knew that Kwame Brown and Aaron McKie were just future cap space. Javaris didn't really disappoint anyone, but I don't think that he has truly impressed all that many either. As yet another young player who professes to be a point guard, he needs to improve his playmaking ability for his teammates period just to get onto the floor. Too often he plays faster than he should, which is an all-too-common problem for young players who need to learn how to let the game come to them. If his shooting has improved over the summer, he should definitely be the first guard off the bench and see plenty of time at the 2.
Marko Jaric - While Chip might insist on putting him at every position on the roster in order to post as many pictures of his lovely fiancée as possible, I'm placing him here because that's where I truly believe that he will get the majority of his playing time. Jaric isn't particularly spectacular at any one area (other than dating apparently), but he doesn't have a glaring weakness either, which makes him a suitable choice to get some minutes backing up Mayo and Critt if either of them are injured or have cold shooting nights.
Greg Buckner - The "forgotten" man in the draft night trade, Buckner is a solid defender who is rather non-descript in every other area of the game. Given the details of his contract, it is unlikely that Buckner will be on the team beyond this year, which means that he probably won't garner much playing time this year as he isn't part of the future of the team.
CONCLUSION: I think that fans should expect O.J. Mayo to get 50-65% of the available playing time this season, Crittenton to receive 30-35% and Jaric to get whatever happens to be left over. Mayo might not come out strong at the onset of his first NBA season, but I expect that by the end of the year he'll have people talking about him across the NBA landscape. Critt has an excellent shot at making an impact in his second season as well. What the Grizzlies truly need from the position this year is some solid defense and perimeter shooting, both of which can be provided by these two young players. If they can chip in 4-6 assists and 6-8 rebounds a night combined too, then things will definitely be looking up in the Bluff City.