Second in a five-part series examining the re-tooled Dallas Mavericks position by position.
Since the days of Michael Finley, the Mavs have mostly lacked size and athleticism at the 2-guard. Jason Terry, of course, is a tremendous shooter and fourth-quarter scorer, and he served proudly as sixth man for his last few seasons in Dallas. There is genuine excitement brewing over the possibilities with the 6-foot-4, 210-pound O.J. Mayo starting at shooting guard. At 24 and four years into his NBA career, Mayo remains a hotly debated player in regard to just how good he is and his potential. Was he overrated as the No. 3 pick in 2008 out of USC? Is he still overrated? Why did Memphis try to trade him more than once? Why didn't they make a $7 million qualifying offer to keep him? Why did he fall through the cracks of free agency and sign with Dallas for less money than he made last season? All are legitimate questions. How highly the Mavs have valued Mayo over the years is even up for debate. Still, there is genuine excitement brewing over the possibilities with Mayo starting at the 2-guard. The position is backed up with good size and defensive chops of Dahntay Jones, plus Vince Carter, who could ultimately see more time at small forward.
How it came together
The Mavs exercised the option on Carter's contract June 30, making it fully guaranteed for $3.1 million for next season. The Mavs liked Carter's contributions last season at both wing positions, and he'll probably need to show that versatility again off the bench. Dallas pulled off the two-for-one sign-and-trade with the Indiana Pacers July 11 that netted the defensively durable Jones and Darren Collison, who figures to take over at point guard. The Mavs still needed an upgrade at shooting guard and with the choices drying up, it wasn't certain Dallas would come away with the type of player they needed after losing the 3-point shooting of Jason Terry. But O.J. Mayo continued to dangle on the market. The Suns were interested, but Mayo tweeted on July 17 that he was signing with the Mavs. He comes on a friendly two-year deal, with the second year being player option. But at about $4 million for next season, Mayo is a bargain and brings needed youth, athleticism and firepower.
The days of being undersized at shooting guard are over. The biggest development is likely to come on the defensive end where the Mavs no longer have to mix-and-match to cover opposing backcourts. Mayo brings strong perimeter defense and a knack for stepping into passing lanes and making the steal. He's quick and is good in transition defense, an area that particularly dogged slow-footed Dallas last season. Offensively, Mayo will look for his shot. He can get to the rim with decent regularity and he will always look for his 3-point shot, an area of particular need with Terry's departure. Although his 3-point attempts and percentage dropped with his playing time as he moved to the bench, he still shot it at 36.4 percent in each of the last two seasons. That mark would have been third on the Mavs last season, just behind Dirk Nowitzki and Terry. ... Jones will give small forward Shawn Marion someneeded defensive relief on the wing. He won't be counted on as much of a scoring option, although he shot better than 42 percent from beyond the arc last season on just 77 attempts. ... Carter gave Dallas a post-up dimension last season and he was the team's best 3-point shooter for the first half of the season. He was probably overextended during the prolonged period that Delonte West missed with a fractured finger, so the Mavs believe the savvy Carter, who showed he can still on occasion get to the rim and leap over everybody, can be a significant asset off the bench and with managed minutes. ... We covered combo guards Rodrigue Beaubois, Dominique Jones and rookie Jared Cunningham under point guards on Monday, but all could also see time at shooting guard.
When the Memphis Grizzlies chose to start defensive-minded shooting guard Tony Allen and move Mayo to the bench two seasons ago, the young guard's scoring average and his shooting percentage plummeted. As a reserve, Mayo averaged about six fewer points than he did as a starter, but that makes since he averaged about 12 fewer minutes again. However, the drop in shooting percentage is curious. Never a great shooter (45.8 is his career best from the floor), Mayo has shot 40.8 percent and 40.7 percent in each of the last two seasons. That is a significant concern for a team that could be looking to Mayo to be its second main scoring threat behind Nowitzki. For a player who can create his own shot and get to the rim, Mayo doesn't get to the free-throw line all that often. While his 172 attempts would have ranked second last season on the Mavs, who ranked near the bottom of the league in free throw attempts, Mayo ranked 41st among guards averaging 2.6 free-throw attempts a game. He ranked 49th in free throws made at 2.0 a game and 48th in free-throw percentage at 77.3 percent. ... Jones provides little offensive upside and Carter, who will turn 36 in January, has remained rather durable, although managing his minutes will become more of a priority.