The last thing the Bucks would seem to need is another average player on a slightly-above-average contract, but by most accounts that's just what they got when they agreed to a 3-year, $24 million deal with shooting guard O.J. Mayo. Mayo scores pretty well (especially compared to former SG Monta Ellis) thanks to his solid 3-point shooting and can play a little point guard, but little else stands out. In fact, two of the most prominent total-value metrics, Player Efficiency Rating (PER) and Win Shares per 48 Minutes (WS/48), suggest Mayo lags even behind an average NBA player. According to Basketball-Reference, last season Mayo had a PER of 13.9 and a WS/48 of .069. The average for each of those metrics is 15 and .100, respectively.
Why are those catch-all stats so low on Mayo? There have to be spots where Mayo lags behind his contemporaries, since his scoring efficiency and passing rate a bit better. According to Hoopdata.com, Mayo's TS% last season was about 2.6% higher than an average shooting guard, while his assist rate was about 30% higher. What's dragging him down? Let's take a look at some key factors.
The chief culprit: Turnover Rate - 12.32, 22% worse than average
Mayo's 2.6 turnovers per 36 minutes don't look so bad on the surface. After all, Brandon Jennings averaged 2.5 per 36 minutes last season, and taking care of the ball is one spot where Jennings has consistently excelled. But Mayo spends a lot less time with the ball than Jennings does, meaning he ends fewer possessions and thus a similar numbers of turnovers represents a higher percentage of his plays. Turnovers are penalized heavily in most all-in-one metrics because they're just about the most damaging thing a player can do. Not only do they immediately end a team's offensive possession, but they tend to lead to more high-value possessions for the opponent, which in turn lead to less high-value possessions for the original team. It's a dangerous cycle.
Where are all these turnovers coming from? According to MySynergySports.com, Mayo's biggest problems keeping hold of the ball came as the ball handler in the pick and roll, which was coincidentally his most common play type. Mayo finished almost 300 such plays and committed turnovers on 21.5%. That's pretty awful. It's remarkable that he still managed to finish even 115th in Synergy's database in points per play while turning the ball over that much.
A quick viewing of a handful of plays revealed one recurring problem: Mayo has a hard time dealing with any sort of aggressive trap off a pick and roll, especially when he gets close to the basket. His size likely plays a role: at 6'4", he's undersized for his position and seems to have a hard time dealing with the lengthy defenders in these situations. He also fell victim to some flawed anticipation (and some occasional shoddy movement from his roll men), throwing passes to empty spots on the floor or driving into traffic and jumping. That rarely works out for anybody.
Mayo will likely be asked to run a decent amount of P&R in Milwaukee, though perhaps not as much as in Dallas. Larry Sanders developed into a pretty solid P&R big last season, using his length to secure passes high above defenders and dunking everything he could. That's a pretty easy target for Mayo to hit. He's also got Ersan Ilyasova as a Dirkesque pick-and-pop partner for threes around the top of the arc.
Rebounding - DRR 8% worse than average, ORR 86% worse than average
First, lets just clarify that we're dealing with some fairly small numbers here, so minor variations can easily be blown up. For reference, the average SG grabbed 38 offensive rebounds last season. Mayo grabbed 35. The huge disparity in ORR is partly due to things like playing time, team pace, team shooting percentages, etc.
That being said, nobody would call Mayo a strong rebounder for his position. That might be a bit of an issue, since Milwaukee was downright awful on the defensive glass for most of the year. Most people don't think of guards when considering rebounding, but Milwaukee's duo did some damage in that regard last year, and Mayo might not be much of a remedy.
Can he improve? Again, it might be a function of role on the court. Shifting Mayo off the ball a bit more might free him up to grab more rebounds, but a high pace team like the Bucks have been in recent years (and project to be under Larry Drew) is more likely to have its guards leak out in search of transition opportunities. Mayo isn't a high-energy, blinding athleticism sort of player, but if his coaches get into him about it, it seems like a bit more production on the boards could be possible.
Steals, Blocks - Roughly 20% worse than average, taken in total
Again, we're talking about really small variances in totals, but Mayo lags a bit behind fellow shooting guards in the defensive counting stats. An effective ballhawk can swing a game a considerable amount, since steals end opponent possessions and typically yield high-value shot attempts for the thieving team. Then again, Monta Ellis racked up steals and was a net-negative on defense last season.
The takeaway: Take care of the ball!
Regardless of everything else, just cutting down on turnovers will do wonders for Mayo's advanced stat profile. Because he's already above-average in TS%, just changing turnovers into generic shot attempts will tend to increase his value. If those TOs become three-pointers, or shots at the rim? Even better. One more notable point: Only 18 qualified guards finished last season with turnovers rates of at least 15.6, and only one of those players (Norris Cole) had a lower assist rate than Mayo. So yes, perhaps the point guard position isn't the place for him.
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