Recon 2.0 – The Chase for OJ Mayo‏

Could O.J. Mayo end up as a Knick? (Source: 3shadesofblue.com)

Rumors surfaced over the last few days that Memphis Grizzlies shooting guard, O.J. Mayo, could possibly be traded to the Knicks.  Josh Sage shares his thoughts:If you don’t know much about the 3rd pick in the 2008 draft, here are a few quick facts. Ovinton J’Anthony Mayo is a 6’4″, 23 year old, pure scorer. He’s averaged 17.2 ppg, on 44% shooting from the field for his young career, 38% from beyond the arc, which is better than all but three current Knicks. His rookie season he averaged 18.5 points, 3.2 assists, and 1.1 steals per game, causing many to question if he should have been taken ahead of Beasley as the 2nd pick that year. His career numbers have taken a slight dip this season, due to the mess of a coaching staff in Memphis who are only giving the kid 29 minutes a night.

While O.J. is not known for his defense, by all accounts he’s a hard working kid, so it’s possible he could grow as a defender under the right coach. Yeah, I know, we don’t have that kind of coach right now, but that could change in the future. In the meantime, Mike D’Antoni can do for Mayo what he did for David Lee and Wilson Chandler: help him refine his offensive game and turn him into an All-Star caliber player. Given his rookie season, or the 17.5 ppg he put up his sophomore year, it shouldn’t take much to turn this boy into an All-Star.

Almost a week ago, Chris Tomasson reported that O.J. Mayo felt his value (as a player heading into contract negotiations) could be hurt by his move to the bench.  Memphis coach, Lionel Hollins, explains the move as necessary due to the team’s lack of depth, creating a need for bench scoring.  Since becoming a member of the second unit, Mayo has averaged around 8.9 points per game, including a three game stretch where he averaged just 4 points per contest. The situation might have hit a boiling point as Hollins has grown tired of answering questions about Mayo’s decreased minutes and new role.

To make matters worse, the Grizzlies have $76.4 million dollars committed to the team this season. With Rudy Gay and Mike Conley Jr. signed to lucrative deals, do the Grizz really have enough money left to extend both Mayo and starting center Marc Gasol? Don’t forget that starting PF Zach Randolph is on the final year of his current deal and has been a vital part of this young Memphis team that looks to make the playoffs for the first time since Pau Gasol led them there during the 2004-2005 season. The blogosphere seems to agree with me as a report surfaced that a source close to Mayo’s family believes the 3rd year guard could be moved this week, with the Knicks being a potential landing spot.

Now many Knicks fans will see this news and whine about our salary cap for this coming off-season. Mayo is making $4.46 million this season and is set to make $5.6 million next year in the final year of his rookie deal. Don’t fret people, adding a talent like Mayo can only strengthen the Knicks’ position in their continuous trade talks with Denver about Carmelo Anthony. If New York trades for Mayo and if he pans out, then the Knicks would have a pool of Landry Fields, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov and Anthony Randolph to choose from in any potential deals with Denver for Carmelo [Editor's Note: although in that scenario we would have already traded at least one of those guys away to get Mayo.  Separate concern: if Melo ends up not being traded and instead just becomes a free agent in the summer, we might not be able to offer him a max contract, depending on whom we would have given away for Mayo]. The loss of any one of those players would be overcome by the addition of Carmelo and Mayo, who could potentially transition seamlessly into the Knicks starting rotation.

For those Knicks fans that are reading this and complaining about Mayo’s current stat line … just how well was Michael Beasley playing last season? Look at Beasley now! I was looking for the Knicks to make the move to acquire Beasley this past off-season, because I saw his offensive talents, and because Miami was dumb enough to give him away for nothing. The Knicks made the mistake of not going after him and now the worst GM in the NBA is reaping the benefits from it  [Ed's note: well, we don't know actually if the Knicks didn't go after Beas, only that we didn't end up getting him. Teams tend to prefer to trade potentially good players to the opposite conference.  Add in the New York-Miami past, and I'd imagine that the Heat would've been particularly hesitant about giving away a talent to the Knicks who could come back to bite 'em in the butt four times a year].  All the Timberwolves had to give Miami for the services of Michael Beasley was two second-round draft picks. I highly doubt that’s what Memphis will be asking for in exchange for Mayo since they aren’t in any pressing need to shed salary right away like Miami was at the time. However, their asking price for Mayo shouldn’t be high at all given his recent poor play, the inability of the coaching staff to judge the talent on their roster and the history of failure of that front office, specifically their owner [Ed's note: I disagree that their asking price will be low.  They know he's got talent, and with him still on a relatively reasonable rookie salary, there's no reason for them to give up on him unless they get some genuinely decent property in return.  I think they more likely give up on Hollins.  Teams don't normally (or easily) give up on a top 3 pick who averaged 17+ his first two years, even if he's been awful the first two months of his third season.  Unless Memphis gets a nice haul, don't expect Mayo to be traded this season.  Plus, the "source" that said they think Mayo will end up in New York is cited as being a close friend of the family.  Often players don't realize they've been traded until they hear it in the news, so chances that a friend of the family would have legit promising knowledge seems slim.]

Mayo is a talented scorer, undersized for his position, but talented nonetheless. If Memphis makes the same mistake with Mayo that Miami made with Beasley, then Donnie would be twice the fool for letting another golden opportunity pass him by.

Let’s hope the Knicks can pull off a Pau here!

Topics: Carmelo Anthony, Lionel Hollins, Memphis Grizzlies, Michael Beasley, New York Knicks, OJ Mayo

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  • http://www.shattertheglass.com bgalella

    You’re right, if the Knicks can rob Memphis that would be great, but the way Landry Fields is playing right now, do the Knicks really need him.

    OJ Mayo should be a starter in this league and Chicago or Orlando could really, really use him and they would be smart to beat any offer the Knicks can make.

    If the Knicks do make a move, I think it should be for a big man that can help Amar’e Stoudemire protect the rim and grab some rebounds.

    • http://bucketsoverbroadway.com Alex David, aka Short White Boy

      I don’t think anyone’s robbing Memphis. Look, when they got rid of Pau, it was ‘cuz he had a big ol’ contract. When Miami got rid of Beasley, it was to ensure Dwayne Wade would stay in town and so they could get that guy Bosh and his friend James. Yes, they’re wasting Mayo’s talents, but I really can’t see them giving him away anytime soon. Particularly since it’s not like he’s someone who’s poisoning the locker room or anything.

      And I’m with you 100%, we need Landry. Even more so if we get Melo, ‘cuz you need someone who’s willing to do the dirty work alongside him. While Fields isn’t some certified stud, people underestimate how important a piece like him is towards solving the championship puzzle. Honestly, it’s easier to get a scoring swingman like Mayo than it is to get a do-everything guy like Fields. Often teams have a defensive stopper like Bruce Bowen, Raja Bell, Shane Battier, DeShawn Stevenson, Tony Allen, Ron Artest, etc., but unlike all those guys, Fields also has a pretty athletic game and is a great rebounder. The latter of which makes him even more valuable for a team like us, considering that our bigs aren’t great rebounders (in fact, before the season began everyone was sure the Knicks would get hammered on the boards, and Fields is the surprise unexpected reason that hasn’t been the case).

  • b

    OJ Mayo needs to come to New York, he is wasting his talents in Memphis.

  • http://www.shattertheglass.com bgalella

    Exactly, I’d rather have Landry Fields at the starting two guard, he’s four inches taller and scores points without plays being drawn up for him.

    OJ Mayo could easily get frustrated with the Knicks offense because Stoudemire, Gallo and Felton have been getting most of the looks, Mayo needs to shoot 10-15 shots a night and not sure if giving him that many attempts would really help out New York.

    Crazy to be typing about the Knicks NOT needing to make a trade. Good times.

    • http://bucketsoverbroadway.com Alex David, aka Short White Boy

      I don’t think Mayo would get frustrated with the Knicks offense as it is, ‘cuz it’s not like we just give it to Stat in some isolation one-on-one play while everyone watches (well, sometimes we do, but that’s when the O is at its worst). However, if we were to also add Melo, then Mayo might wish he had more touches. But considering he’s currently coming off the bench for a team that’s outside the playoff picture, I’m thinking he’d be jumping for joy in D’Antoni’s freewheeling offensive system here.

  • John

    Hello, u know that u have to give something back to Memphis in a trade or its not really a TRADE. This ain’t a salary dump like the Marcus Camby trade from Denver to the Clippers, so relax yourselves, i’m guessing memphis might want fields back because he’s cheap salary and a young talent as they have to resign gasol next offseason.

  • JD

    If Memphis is undervaluing O.J. Mayo as much as teams believe that they are, then New York may be able to land him for Anthony Randolph, Timofey Mozgov and a future first rounder or two second round picks.

    People don’t seem to understand that New York’s cap situation isn’t as simple as just leaving things as is and waiting for the off season to break the piggy bank open for Melo. First off, the labor disputes make it possible that New York may have ZERO cap room this coming off-season, regardless of what they do or do not do this season, because of a strict hard cap. Without knowing what the cap will be next season, the Knicks can’t just assume that they’ll be able to sign Melo as a free agent. Secondly, Wilson Chandler is a free agent this off season and New York can ill afford to let walk when he’s their most versatile defender (SG, SF, PF) and it won’t be cheap to resign him what with his stats thus far being at career highs.

    Right now the Knicks simply are not good enough to contend during the playoffs, they’ll make it there, just don’t expect them to be in the finals. In order to get past Boston, New York will need to upgrade their roster, by adding another 20 ppg player. Ideally that player would be a Center, since that’s a position of need for NYK, but there are no such players available for trades at that position this year.

    Given the uncertainty of the cap, the only venue to acquire upgrades is the trade market, and the best options out there are Carl Landry (to strengthen the bench), Carmelo Anthony, Andre Iquodala (great defense, no jump shot) or O.J. Mayo. Out of all of those options, Mayo and Landry will cost the Knicks the least in terms of players and dollars. Two smaller moves (Mayo + Landry) may just add up to more for New York then the one big splash.

    Carmelo might have made it clear that his only option (in his heart) is the Knicks, but Denver still holds some leverage with the uncertain labor situation. Their current asking price of Chandler, Fields, Gallinari, Randolph (traded for a first rounder) and Curry’s expiring contract is way too high, and while I don’t believe they’ll end up getting that, they will push for either Chandler or Fields to be included with the pick and expiring deal. Denver knows it’s too risky for New York and Melo to wait for the off season so in the end it will cost New York a lot to land Melo and if they want him in the fold, they will have to trade for him.

    Also as much as I write about Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, etc., potentially leaving their teams and joining the Knicks (because it’s news), unless the labor disputes lead to no salary cap (like in Baseball) hell will freeze over before the Knicks can pair any two players from that list alongside Amar’e, unless they rip their roster apart (Miami style) in order to do it.

    A low figure hard cap, will most likely make a star trio in New York (or anywhere else for that matter) impossible.

    • http://bucketsoverbroadway.com Alex David, aka Short White Boy

      It’s important to realize that there’s a difference between the coaching staff undervaluing a player and the front office undervaluing a player. Like early in the season when Kevin Love couldn’t get more than 24 minutes a game, every GM in the league contacted Minnesota to get him. But while coach Kurt Rambis wasn’t sold on Love, the front office was, so they told everyone to get lost. I think it’s the same thing in this case with Memphis. They’re not gonna give Mayo away for second round picks or the ineffective Mozgov. Even a first round pick wouldn’t be a top 10 pick, and they know Mayo’s a top 10 value. However, they may, just may, still believe that Anthony Randolph can turn into a superstar like we did (the sad thing is if we can’t convince anyone to take Randolph, we may’ve ended up just trading away David Lee for Ronny Turiaf. I love Turiaf, but man, talk about the short end of the stick).

      Likewise, Carl Landry has such a small salary that Sacramento has no incentive to get rid of him unless they believe in Randolph or can get a first round pick (which we don’t have).

      Cap-wise, you make a great point as to why the Knicks should pursue Melo now versus the off-season. However, I seriously doubt that the owners will get a hard cap. The cap likely will get lowered, maybe salary-length and max salaries get lessened, but I think the players will fight tooth and nail to avoid a hard cap. And deep-pocketed owners who are willing to spend to win (like say the owners of the Lakers, Mavs, Celts and the Knicks), they won’t necessarily be too keen to lose that advantage and thus won’t push too strongly for it (and they may even resist it).

      Lastly, Wilson Chandler is a restricted free agent, so if the Knicks want to keep him, they can. They have the right to match any offer that another team gives him. Even if it means going over the salary cap. However, unless they renounce his rights, even if they don’t have an agreement in place, his salary will count against our cap as I believe a max salary, so as you mention Josh, that’d make it even harder (if not impossible) to sign Melo straight up as a free agent. Which is another reason why you’re right that it’d be better to acquire Melo now rather than wait until the off-season. Then again, I’m not certain that what we need to get by Boston is another 20 ppg player, since our problem doesn’t seem to be scoring enough points, but rather stopping other teams. Like I almost feel that instead of Mayo or Melo, we might become a stronger team if we traded for their respective less-heralded teammates of Marc Gasol or Nene.

  • JD

    Marc Gasol is a starter on a team with no front court depth, so unless Hamed Haddadi or Hasheem TheBust develop into quality NBA Centers the chances of Memphis trading Marc are slim to none.

    Denver knows it’s going to lose Melo so trading away what will be their best player (hands down) once Melo goes is unlikely.

    There simply are no quality Centers available for trades or free agency, the only options the Knicks have to upgrade the front court is Carl Landry (free agent at end of season) or the rookie Hassan Whiteside, because the Kings have two many bigs to handle. Trading for the rights to Jarvis Varnado (another rookie shot blocker like Whiteside) from Miami are really the only options the Knicks currently have for front court help. All are gambles on potential returns and no sure things. Maybe New York can push a trade for Marcus Camby, because Portland is spiraling out of playoff contention, but Portland brass seems delusional enough to cling to this belief that they’re still a title contender. The best chance the Knicks have to upgrade the roster is adding another elite scorer or elite defender in the wing because that’s what’s out there in the forms of Iguodala and Melo.

    • http://bucketsoverbroadway.com Alex David, aka Short White Boy

      No, my point wasn’t so much that those teams would give up their bigs, but rather more that I think it’s more the direction we need to go. And if Denver does get rid of Melo, they’re gonna be blowing up their team (already they’ve been looking for takers for JR Smith), so I imagine they’d also be potentially interested in getting rid of the rest of Nene’s big contract.

      And Marc Gasol will be a restricted free agent, and after Memphis just dished out all this $ to Rudy Gay and Mike Conley, plus Zach Randolph will need an extension, it’s possible that if we offer a big ol’ contract that the Grizz would let him walk.

      Also, Carl Landry is a nice player, but he’s an undersized power forward, and what we need is a man in the middle, so I’m not sure he really fits a need of ours. If we’re looking at Sac, I think it’s better to go after Samuel Dalembert who also becomes a free agent this summer. We need someone next to Amar’e to do the dirty work, not to also be able to score in the post like Landry can.

  • sage

    See this is why I wanted the Knicks to draft Hassan Whiteside or Jarvis Varnado, two college players known for shot blocking and rebounding.

    What kinds of defensive centers are we looking at entering the first round of this upcoming NBA draft? The draft is probably the only way we’ll get a quality defensive center, without having to overpay for one.

    • http://bucketsoverbroadway.com Alex David, aka Short White Boy

      Wait, the Sacramento Kings, a young rebuilding team, felt Hassan couldn’t even contribute for them and sent him to the D-League. Similarly, the Miami Heat, a team desperate for a shot-blocking big to protect the paint, let Varnado go off to play in Italy. Meanwhile, the guy we drafted, Landry Fields, has been the third most valuable rookie this year and leads all guards in rebounds! Sure, Andy Rautins hasn’t shown anything, but even though he’s a perimeter player on a team full of perimeter players, he still played well enough to stay in the NBA. Maybe things will turn around for Whiteside and Varnado, but history isn’t on their side. Many perimeter players work their way back to the NBA, but in terms of bigs, it’s usually only undersized (Ben Wallace, Reggie Evans, Chuck Hayes, Brandon Bass) or relatively unathletic guys (Brad Miller, Udonis Haslem, Marcin Gortat, Mikki Moore, Josh Powell, Aaron Williams). Heck, even Thabeet hasn’t been really able to establish a foothold here. You can find a hustling undersized big in the second round, but it’s very, very rare to find a big shotblocker. Particularly with last year’s draft being so weak, if teams thought those guys could really produce in the NBA, then someone would’ve snagged ‘em in the first round.

      I dunno, I’m just not a big believer in hoping to improve through second rounders. To me you gotta assume they won’t amount to anything, and if they eventually manage to get even just 10 minutes/game, then you should consider it a huge, unexpected success.

      And if you do get a quality center, even if you get ‘em through the draft, eventually you gotta overpay. Memphis may be getting Marc Gasol on the cheap right now, but you can bet that this summer he’ll get at least $10+ million from the Grizz or someone else.

  • sage

    The Sacramento Kings can’t even figure out their rotation. Their play assessment of Hassan Whiteside carries little value to me.

    Similarly the Miami Heat foolishly gave up on Beasley, after improperly developing him, so their talent assessment of Varnado is suspect as well.

    Landry Fields would not have bee drafted by anyone except New York, no one else was reported to have him on their draft board. He probably wouldn’t be in the NBA today without New York. Why? Because the Knicks scouts properly evaluated his talent and potential and lucked out on a quality guard. Given the fact that New York had so many wing players already, especially after drafting Fields, they should have spent that pick on a big and not some SG that Mike felt resembled Steve Nash in college.

    As for Whiteside, the Knicks could have easily bought one of the late first round picks that were made available, just like they did for the purposes of drafting Tony Douglas. Brushing aside players just because they were drafted late in the first or in the second round is a mistake. Everyone passed on Dennis Rodman in the first, as well as Manu, and they proved everyone wrong.

    It’s much easier to take a chance on players that are drafted, since it only takes a pick, then it is to trade for someone without altering team chemistry. As it stands the Knicks have very few players they can move without altering the dynamic they have at present.

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