Today I'm introducing Mark Travis, a new writer for the site. Mark's a basketball fan first -- not primarily a Grizz fan -- so he'll add something of a "contrarian" point of view that many would argue I lack at times. I know lots of people aren't going to love a first post on trading O.J. Mayo, but give it a shot. -djturtleface
When I spoke with O.J. Mayo this summer at the Team USA Basketball Mini-Camp in Las Vegas, Nevada, he seemed like a nice, down to earth guy with a passion for basketball. That's exactly the kind of player you want to be at the helm of your franchise for an extended period of time. The problem for O.J. is that he's on a team with three above average players (Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol, and Zach Randolph) that all need looks and more often than not it seems like Mayo gets the short end of the stick.
On the season, Mayo is averaging the second most field goal attempts a game for the Grizzlies, but minor injuries have slowed the starts of Randolph and Gasol to this point and they will both likely be more aggressive and effective once they are 100% healthy. Additionally, Mike Conley seems like he is going to be shooting the ball a bit more this season based on his play during the first couple of weeks, which only takes more looks away from Mayo.
And with Conley running the point, there is no real flow when it comes to ball distribution. Conley's assist rate ranks 21st among point guards, which is in the middle of the pack, and he is only averaging four more assists a game than turnovers. With as many offensive options as the Grizzlies have, there is not a true need for a scoring point guard, just one that can hit three's at a good clip and has a great feel for the game when it comes to hitting his teammates where they like the ball and when they are hot.
Conley isn't that guy and it forces Memphis into some poorly organized offensive sets. Memphis is currently the sixth worst offensive team in the league when it comes to offensive efficiency, a stat that measures how well you manage your possessions, which is unacceptable for a team with this much offensive talent.
So with so many other weapons and no real way to get maximum production out of Mayo because of the lack of a true point guard, the Grizzlies are best off dealing O.J., in my estimation. They have already committed a max deal to Rudy Gay, gave Mike Conley a big-time extension and will have to pay steller big man Marc Gasol a hefty sum as well, leaving little cap room to be used on Mayo.
So, if the Grizzlies were to deal, what could they get for him? Lets look and see:
Jeff Green buys the upgrade from Harden to Mayo for the Thunder. Grizz send over a couple of cap fillers with Mayo while getting back a young scoring guard that has a lot of potential but does not need to be made a focal point offensively of yet as well as a young power forward that can replace Zach Randolph when he hits the market this summer. With Harden, Memphis would be able to manage their SG spot the same way the Thunder do now. They could start a defensive stopper with limited offensive abilities with Tony Allen and bring in Harden as their main offensive option with the second unit. Having Green next to Gasol instead of Randolph will give Marc more room to work in the post as Green is more of a stretch four, which will give Gasol a better chance of getting touches in the post.
Memphis Grizzlies Receive: Monta Ellis
This offer was reportedly made last season but the Warriors turned it down. Ellis has looked a lot better this season, so there is obviously still incentive for the Grizzlies to make this deal, but Conley's extension means Ellis would be stepping into the same role Mayo was forced into and he's a lot more assertive than Mayo with his shot attempts, so that may not work out for Memphis. Still, there are few players as talented as Ellis and his ability to create, even though he prefers to shoot, is better than Mayo's at this point.
New Orleans Hornets Receive: O.J. Mayo
The Hornets have been desperate to make a move to get Chris Paul a wing man for the next few seasons and Mayo is a perfect fit. He can spot up, drive and is a quality defender. Right now, Paul has the Hornets at the top of the NBA with Marco Belinelli and Trevor Ariza spotting up on the wings and they are both shooting below 40%. With Mayo, Paul, David West, Emeka Okafor, and Ariza, the Hornets would have one of the most potent offensive starting fives in the league as well as a pretty good defensive unit. In addition to Thornton, who could be a sparkplug sixth man for Grizzles, the Hornets could offer youngster Quincy Pondexter, who looks to be a solid small forward down the line. Also, if Memphis could find a way to return some contracts to New Orleans, the Hornets could send over Peja Stojakovic's $14 million expiring contract.
Chicago Bulls Receive: O.J. Mayo
The Bulls need a wing scorer to put next to Rose in order to join the Celtics, Heat and Magic as an elite team in the East and Mayo will cost way less than what the Nuggets want for Carmelo Anthony. Gibson is a great young player that has shown flashes of a potential 20-10 guy once he gets his jumper going and is a very capable replacement for Randolph that knows how to play without a volume of shots. Johnson is a decent back-up small forward at this point and has shown flashes of a great defender and transition athlete to back-up Gay. Asik is more of a throw in to get the contracts to match but he has shown some skills and looks better right now than Hasheem Thabeet. With Mayo, Rose, Noah, Boozer and Deng, the Bulls would easily be one of the top teams in the NBA. They would need to make a move to get a replacement for Gibson (they can't live with just Kurt Thomas and Brian Scalabrine) but adding Mayo would be huge nonetheless.
Los Angeles Lakers Receive: O.J. Mayo, Hasheem Thabeet
Memphis Grizzlies Receive: Sasha Vujacic, Luke Walton
I realize this trade will never happen but I had to include it because I have two on going theories: 1) If I suggest Vujacic/Walton as a trade package in every possible scenario it will eventually happen and 2) O.J. Mayo will be a Laker within three years. Mayo went to USC, is constantly working out there in the summers, has told me he loves the weather there and could have a chance to be the heir apparent to Kobe Bryant in LA. That's a pretty sweet gig, if you ask me.
(djurtleface: I feel like the Grizz would HAVE to get back at least Shannon Brown and/or Lamar Odom to deal O.J. Mayo. They'll definitely want starting caliber players, not just salary cap relief)
There are clearly many other offers that could be made for O.J. and not all of these may be very appealing for Grizzlies fans. Mayo is very talented and if Memphis was to trade him, the return should show that. You guys may not think that Memphis should deal Mayo, but right now, he isn't a good fit for this team. The Grizzlies have already made a financial commitment to Rudy this summer and so far this season, he looks like a player that can lead this team. The best thing that Memphis can do with Mayo is to trade him for assets that fit better with the rest of their roster than having him be marginalized in Memphis.