Only six weeks into his NBA career, rookie O.J. Mayo has taken immediate control of the offense in Memphis, and the individual results are impressive. In just under 40 minutes a game, Mayo is averaging 21.3 points on 46% shooting from the field. He’s getting to the line a little under four times a night — but shooting almost 90% when he’s there. Mayo’s Hollinger assist number is under 10, lower than ideal for a team’s leading primary shooting guard [Eric Gordon's is 18.2], but he doesn’t appear to be the ball hawk that many skeptics assumed he’d be on a poor Memphis team.
I spent some time watching Mayo against Oklahoma City the other night — a game in which Mayo went off for 30 points on 22 FGAs in 42 minutes — to get a better idea of how Memphis is using Mayo in their offensive sets:
- The Pick & Roll: Marc Gasol is usually the screener for Mayo. It’s interesting to see just how symbiotic the two players are in the confines of Memphis’ offense. If you watch Gasol, you get the sense that among his top priorities in the offense is maintaining constant awareness of where Mayo is on the court. The instant the ball goes into Mayo, Gasol snaps into action, offering Mayo the screen that ignites Memphis in the halfourt. Against Oklahoma City, Mayo is the ballhandler on a S/R on 11 possessions. Oklahoma City chooses to double Mayo on three of those 11 occasions. All three instances result in a Memphis turnover. On the first, he throws the ball away; the second possession, he has the ball stripped in traffic; on the third, he forces a shot against the double-team and has it blocked. How does Mayo perform when the Thunder choose to show or switch? Memphis converts on six of eight such possessions. Mayo almost always goes right, usually opting to pull-up for the jumper, though if he’s given an open seam to the hole, he’ll drive all the way to the rim.
- Isolation: Mayo has a nasty crossover, and he loves to use it against bigger defenders to create a drive to the hoop. He embarrasses Kevin Durant with such a move early in the game against OKC that results in a driving flush. On two other occasions, the crossover gives Mayo the opening he wants to go the rack — only Mayo fails to finish the layups. If he can get his defender back on his heels and work himself sufficient space, Mayo will step back for a jumper. Against OKC, he’s less successful with this course of action. On his eight iso sets, Mayo converts points on three of them.
- Spotting Up: Mayo is fond of setting up on the weak side for a potential spot up opportunity. Russell Westbrook does a generally good job of keeping this opportunities to a minimum, but twice Mayo is able to elude Westbrook to break free on the perimeter. Both times, Mayo drains the 3PAs.
For a guy who’s 13th in the league in FGA/game, Mayo doesn’t settle for a lot of stupid shots — though it might be worthwhile to watch him against a stronger defensive team. The Clippers would be wise to double him off that Gasol S/R, but that will require Marcus Camby to do the kind of defensive work he prefers to leave to others. Doubling Mayo would also require Randolph to rotate off Darrell Arthur and onto the rolling Gasol, because Thornton will have his hands full with Rudy Gay. When you consider what the Clippers need to do defensively against a team like Memphis, Chris Kaman becomes a more valuable player. Of the Clippers’ three primary bigs, he’s the most proficient at defending the S/R.