O.J. Mayo: A Perfect Complement for the Cleveland Cavaliers

Bernie DawkinsCorrespondent IAugust 16, 2011

Will Mayo remain a Grizz-kid?
Will Mayo remain a Grizz-kid?Andy Lyons/Getty Images

It’s no secret the Memphis Grizzlies were interested in parting ways with shooting guard O.J. Mayo last season, just like it’s no secret the Cleveland Cavaliers were incredibly bad and bereft of talent in 2011. Perhaps, it would be in the best interests of both parties if they somehow got together this season.

Last winter the Grizzlies were more than just open to the idea of trading Mayo, the former third overall pick of the 2008 draft. In fact, they actually agreed in principle to a deal with the Indiana Pacers, which would have sent Mayo to the Indiana Pacers in exchange for forward Josh McRoberts and a 2011 first-round pick. However, the deal failed to go through for one reason or another. Some believe the Grizzlies backed out at the last minute, while others believe the deal simply missed the deadline. Whatever the reason, Mayo spent the rest of the season with the Grizzlies as they made their surprise run to the Western Conference Semi-Finals.

Meanwhile, the Cavaliers spent last season losing—a lot. After five consecutive trips to the postseason, annual championship delusions, and back-to-back 60+ win seasons, the product on the court in Cleveland in Year One ALBJ (After LeBron James) was expectedly bad. Handicapped by costly contracts from the LeBron-era and equipped with D-League caliber talent, the Cavs finished with the second-worst record in the NBA at 19-63 and at one point lost 26 consecutive games, an NBA record.

Needless to say, one positive for the Cavs is the fact that things can’t get any worse than last season. On second thought, they do reside in Cleveland, so there’s always a possibility that things could get worse based on the city’s tortured, depressed professional sports’ history. Regardless, it’s safe to say the Cavs have at least started the process of rebuilding via the draft after landing Duke point guard Kyrie Irving with the first pick (thanks to owner Dan Gilbert’s willingness to take on the fat contract of Baron Davis) and Texas big man Tristan Thompson with the fourth pick.

While it’s silly to suggest those two are capable of filling the enormous void left by the departure of James, it certainly is a start. Adding a side of Mayo to the mix might just be a perfect complement heading forward.

Mayo, since coming into the league in 2008, has had an inconsistent, up and down three seasons on and off the court for the Grizzlies. His career got off to a very promising start, however. In Mayo’s rookie year he finished as the runner-up behind Derrick Rose for Rookie of the Year after an impressive rookie campaign and followed that up with another good season in 2009-10. His first two seasons in Memphis Mayo started 163 games and averaged 18.0 points per game on 44.8 percent shooting including 38.3 percent from downtown.

Last season, however, Mayo regressed on the court and ran into some trouble off it. In November, Mayo lost his starting job and struggled with his role coming off the bench. Mayo’s numbers decreased across the board as he averaged just 11.3 points per game on 40.7 percent shooting. In addition, Mayo had a rough time off the court as he ran into Tony Allen’s fists on a team charter flight in early January and then, later that month, was suspended for ten games after testing positive for the steroid dehydroepiandrosterone.

To Mayo’s credit, he didn’t let his demotion become a distraction for the Grizzlies as they made their surprise run to the Western Conference Semi-Finals and even turned in some pretty good performances in the seven game series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, scoring 14+ points in five of the games. Nevertheless, I doubt Mayo will ever fully embrace his role coming off the bench in Memphis—given his considerable talent and the fact that he is most certainly a starting caliber shooting guard at the NBA level.

Given the logjam the Grizzlies have on the perimeter with Tony Allen, Sam Young, and Kansas products Xavier Henry and rookie Josh Selby, combined with the fact that small forward Rudy Gay – like Mayo – is a quintessential ball-stopper, a change of scenery is probably the best thing that could happen to Mayo for next season, and Cleveland makes sense.

The Cavs obviously need talent and scorers, and they’re in desperate need of a legitimate starting shooting guard since last year’s incumbent starter, Anthony Parker, is a free agent. Mayo fits the bill and would be a significant upgrade over Parker, or any of the other limited options the Cavs have under contract for next season, which is basically just second-year player Manny Harris.

Moreover, the athletic Mayo would fit in nicely with head coach Byron Scott’s up-tempo offensive philosophy and perhaps - even more importantly - help the development of rookie point guard Irving. Mayo would provide Irving with an athletic running mate on the wing in addition to alleviating some of the pressure, and scoring burden, off the rookie point guard’s shoulders.

All in all, I believe this is a deal the Cavs should aggressively pursue and one that has the potential to benefit all parties involved. If Memphis was willing to deal Mayo last year for McRoberts and a first round draft, I’m sure they’d still be open to the idea of moving him if the Cavs were able to put together a legitimate package involving some draft picks (they have a bunch coming over the next couple years) and probably a shooter, since Memphis ranked dead last in three pointers made per game last season (3.8). In all likelihood, though, a third team would probably have to be added to the mix.

From the Grizzlies’ perspective, dealing Mayo would free up some space in their crowded back court and enable one or both of their recent KU draft picks to gain some experience and help  them develop.

For the Cavs, they would be acquiring a talented, young scoring threat to help out the rebuilding process after James took his talents to South Beach last July and left the franchise in ruins.Mayo would be provided with a fresh start, a starting role again, and an opportunity to rejuvenate his game after a disappointing season last year.

Sometimes all it takes is a side of Mayo to make things a little bit better. In this scenario, I’d have to agree, even though I’m more of a ketchup kind of guy.