Yes, okay. The Lakers are assembling what may well be a juggernaut. The Thunder have clearly arrived, and any path through the West will go through them. The Spurs went cold at a bad time, but won basically every other game last season. But you know what? I'm a Mavs fan. And the Mavs are a lot better than they were last year.
And a big part of the reason is going to be Ovinton J'Anthony Mayo.
Lamar Odom, even if it worked out, wasn't really going to fix that. On the other hand, two big men better than any we had last year, including one of the best post defenders in the game, one of the best dribble penetrators in the game and one of the best young three-point shooters in the game might.
The Mavericks lost their second best scorer and their floor general, this offseason, but their second best scorer was not an elite scorer and their floor general is probably (now) the least elite scorer to play so many minutes at his position in the league. So, in a nutshell, here's what's going to make or break the Mavericks season:
They added a lot of points. They lost some basketball smarts (one genius level basketball mind, one...well not that, anyway). They lost two guys who had a real sense of moment. They added a lot more offensive and defensive talent. The mathematics of basketball are still magic algebra, we don't know whether things are going to work the way they look like they will. There may be some way in which what Terry and Kidd could do in the last few minutes meant more than the obvious talent imbalance between what left and what came back. The math is, is what they lost significantly less than what they gained.
I say yes. And I say Mayo will be a big reason why.
Mayo is, apparently, a super smart guy. I've read that he got a 29 out of 36 on the ACT, good for 95th percentile. That doesn't really mean anything, since tests aren't the only way to find out if someone has a brain and the ACT isn't about basketball. But the more I thought about it, the more that fact stuck with me because it's not just that Mayo's score was good--it's that there was literally no reason it had to be.
A lot of people think the "problem" with Mayo, to the extent that there is one, is that he was such a highly touted prospect. The next LeBron. He was a prodigy in 7th grade. He knew he was going to the show. I'm not going to give him a medal for sticking to the books when he didn't really have to, but I do think it's pretty impressive--I do think it says a lot. And if you think Mayo's pre-draft comp and post-draft performance are disappointing, allow me to direct you to this pre-draft DeShawn Stevenson evaluation. Yeah.
Why didn't it work for Mayo in Memphis? I don't know, I'm not an expert, and I haven't watched enough Memphis games. But I will say this. It's not exactly a coincidence that Mayo's stats started going down as soon as Memphis began to emphasize their unparalleled length up front, Rudy Gay, and Tony Allen. Here he's supposed to be the second scorer. The last time that was true was before Zach Randolph showed up, in 2008-2009. He averaged 18.5 points on 44% shooting, 38% from three, that year.
Jason Terry was brought in to be a Steve Nash replacement. In his own brilliant, brash way he did that--in our hearts, if not exactly on the court. But it's very doubtful, and this is just the truth, that whatever else would have happened had the Steve Nash years kept rolling in Dallas, that Steve could have piloted the Mavericks by the Heat in the NBA Finals. That Steve could have sunk the Lakers with an unconscious shooting night, taken that shot over LeBron, started that 15 point comeback against the Heat with six straight points, and pushed the Mavs to a Game 6 victory with a terrific first half when Dirk couldn't hit a shot. Now OJ Mayo is supposed to be a Jason Terry replacement. And the truth is--he might be better.
Nothing will replace Jet in our hearts. And if you could replace Mayo's heart with Jet's, he'd be an All-Star, no problem. But Mayo is quicker, taller, more athletic. His three-point shot is just as pure. He's a better passer. And God bless Jet again, but Mayo is a LOT younger.
MySynergySports.com tells me that the Jet was better from a lot of places on the floor, even last year, the worst year either had in a while. OJ was better off screens, he shot better and took more of his shots in iso, and he was more or less identical cutting, off hand-offs, and in transition. That's a testament to how good Jet was even last year--but remember, this is Mayo at his worst, and Mayo as a 3rd, 4th, or even 5th scorer. Now he's a featured guy.
And he's joined the Mavericks not for money, but to win. He's got a player option for year two, which means he intends to show he's worth more, maybe a lot more. Why turn down maybe twice as much money? Because OJ Mayo, again, is a smart guy, and he's seen contract problems people are having around him, and he's realized, one assumes, that you get paid best if you get paid by the team you're already with. He wanted that to be the Mavs, and he wanted to prove to them that if they're thinking about finally spending some cash they should start with him.
It sounds good to me. We'll have more on the rest of the guys, soon.
He's taller, longer.