|Mayo's entire career has been turned around by his moving to Dallas|
Drafted third overall in the 2008 NBA Draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves and traded on draft night to Memphis out of USC, O.J. Mayo's future career in the NBA seemed to be headed in a direction like that of other shooting guards with a similar skill set to his, such as Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, or even Joe Johnson.
In his one year in Southern California with the Trojans, Mayo was a scoring machine that the rest of the Pac-10 (now the Pac-12) simply could not stop. Averaging 20.7 points per game, it appeared O.J. would face immediate success at the next level, as his rare mix of size, athleticism and pure scoring ability is not commonly seen in the NBA. Apparently, the Grizzlies felt that way too, as they thought highly enough of Mayo to trade for him on draft night, giving up Kevin Love and the chance to pick Russell Westbrook or Roy Hibbert.
In the beginning of his Mavericks tenure, Mayo was living up to the hype bestowed on him since high school and validated the Grizzlies' faith in him. The West Virginia native played all 164 regular season games of his first seasons, and averaged 18.5 and 17.5 in the 2008-09 and 2009-10 campaigns respectively. His performance in his rookie season was good enough to earn him a spot on the All-Rookie team and put him in second place for Rookie of the Year voting, behind winner Derrick Rose.
Even with all of O.J.'s early NBA success, his team could not crack the top eight teams in the tough Western Conference and did not make the playoffs in either season. That would change in the next season. the 2010-11 campaign.
When the Grizzlies were finally able to reach the Western Conference playoffs two years ago, it came at a time when Mayo's on- and off-court troubles started to burgeon.
First, on November 20, 2010, he was benched by coach Lionel Hollins for the first time in his career for being late to a team shootaround. Then came a fight with teammate Tony Allen over a poker game on a team plane, an incident which was believed to have caused Mayo's absence from the following game, which the team passed off as a bronchitis-related issue.
He even got suspended for 10 games later in the season because of a positive test for a banned substance.
Compounded with a decrease in nearly every significant statistical category and Mayo's season was a complete mess, as he only started 17 of the 71 games he played, a far cry from starting and playing every game from his first two seasons.
The next season, 2011-12, was another down one for the shooting guard, mostly on the court, and it appeared that his time in Memphis may be coming to a close relatively soon. He did not start a single game out of the 66 he played in the shortened season and had a shooting percentage hovering around 40 percent for the second straight season. Then, in the offseason, the Grizzlies did not offer him a contract, making him an unrestricted free agent and effectively ending his up-and-down time with the team.
As we know now, the Mavericks picked him up on the cheap for two years, $8.5 million. And that contract has turned out to be a godsend for Dallas and coach Rick Carlisle. Mayo is averaging 20.9 points per game this season while improving in nearly every other offensive statistic from his performance last year in Memphis.
Also, he has filled in admirably in Dirk Nowitzki's stead, as Dirk still has not played a game this season due a nagging knee injury. One of the biggest reasons why the Mavs have been able to stay afloat in the tough West has been Mayo's surprising leadership and efficient production, a far cry from his troubles in recent years.
It is clear O.J. has reinvented himself as both a person and basketball player, surely maturing from the experience of being essentially released (contract non-renewed) by the team that drafted him. This is not the same player who fought a teammate over poker or was not on-time to a shootaround.
He is a completely different player, a much-improved O.J. Mayo.
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