O.J. Mayo may be in his first NBA season, but he is no rookie.
Both his statistics, and the way he goes about compiling them strongly suggest that Mayo entered the NBA with a veteran’s mentality, his eyes fixed on becoming an NBA superstar. Most rookies enter the league with plenty of talent, but needing to develop an NBA-style game- this was not the case with O.J. From Day One, Mayo has exhibited a polished NBA game, with both instincts and moves seldom seen from a first-year player. Not only has he started all but one of his professional games, logging an average of 38 minutes per game, but every step of the way, he’s looked like he belongs.
Particularly on offense, Mayo hit the ground running in the Association, scoring in double figures in each of his first twenty-five games, and has failed to score 10+ points just twice this season, hitting for 20 or more eighteen times (and 30+ four times) in 35 games. Unlike a lot of rookies Mayo has shot the ball well (45.3% from the field, 39.4% on 3’s, 87.9% from the free throw line) on his way to averaging 20.7 ppg as the league’s leading rookie scorer. However, perhaps the most impressive aspect of Mayo’s offensive game is how “mature” it is- in an era that has seen the mid-range game suffer, O.J. Mayo ranks near the top of the league, shooting 45.9%, on “2-point jump shots” (outside the key, inside the arc- 82games.com), leading all rookies and ranking above established stars like Kobe Bryant (45%), Deron Williams (44.8%), Joe Johnson (44.2%) and Brandon Roy (43.7%). But the beauty of O.J. Mayo’s game is about more than just numbers…
It’s the way that baits defenders into fouls, taking the ball down low and sweeping his arms through before going up for a jumper, a la
This was on full display on December 27 in
To be sure, O.J. Mayo’s not perfect. Like many young stars, he’s entered the NBA in the prime of his “Superman” phase- so talented and confident that he takes the task of trying to win each game solely onto his own shoulders, and has yet to reach the point where he implicitly trusts his teammates. In some ways, O.J. Mayo is reminiscent of a young Kobe Bryant- a sublimely talented prodigy, groomed to be an NBA superstar, with a singular focus on achieving greatness- but seemingly focusing the early years of his career on his own development. Between now and his seemingly inevitable leap to stardom, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Mayo critics echoing those of a young
It’s important to note however, that the truly great athletes (not to say that Mayo is there, but he sure looks like a decent starter kit) do take these steps. O.J. Mayo’s greatest advantage over most young players is that he’s already playing the NBA game, just not as a complete NBA player. Right now, O.J. Mayo is a fantastic individual NBA player. Once Mayo learns to trust his teammates, especially in late-game situations, and learns where they like the ball, and the best way to create open shots for them, he will take “the leap”.
Note: Some stats in this article sourced from www.82games.com