The Milwaukee Bucks announced on Thursday that Mayo had been ruled out for the remainder of the season due to a fractured ankle. Wait, what? When did that happen? Per the Bucks' press release:
Mayo accidentally tripped descending his stairs at home.
It's not quite a Spinal Tap-ish bizarre gardening accident, but after Michael Carter-Williams' season-ending surgery a week ago the news of Mayo's injury does suggest there's something snakebit about being a starting guard for the Bucks. It's also the latest unfortunate twist in a rough season for Uncle Juice, whose contract year started with plenty of promise (best shape of his life talk!) but was marred by injuries to his shooting hand and both hamstrings, not to mention the most prolonged shooting slump of his career. After never shooting worse than 36% from three and 41% overall in his first seven seasons, Mayo hit just 32% of his threes and 37% overall this year and will finish the season have played a career-low 41 games.
With unrestricted free agency ahead this summer, Mayo's injury could also prove an unfortunate epitaph to a turbulent three-year career in Milwaukee. After signing a three-year, $24 million deal in the summer of 2013, Mayo was widely assumed to be a key starter and potential leading scorer under Larry Drew. Instead, he fell out of the rotation entirely for long stretches of the Bucks' 15-67 campaign. Still, he bounced back a year ago under Jason Kidd, reinventing himself as an avuncular bench scorer (and underrated passer) who never seemed averse to diving on the court or mixing it up with opponents. For a guy once considered the next great high school superstar and a former #3 overall pick, Mayo finally seemed comfortable being "just" a rotation guy, embracing the team's young players (and always finding them on the break) despite maintaining what can only be described as a quirky, often confounding off-court presence.
Alas, Mayo missed the start of this season, foreshadowing an injury-plagued campaign in which he often bounced between street clothes and -- despite his shooting struggles -- the starting five. Remember, before "Point Giannis" there was "Point Juice," as Mayo was inserted into the starting five at the end of November and then again shortly before the all-star break to provide some much-needed shooting. Despite his overall struggles, he did shoot 35% from deep while taking half of his attempts from three as a starter, and despite his poor statistical line he currently ranks second on the Bucks in raw plus-minus; interestingly, no Buck has a better on-court defensive rating than Mayo (102.3), reflective of the scrappy style which he brought to the court.
Without Mayo, the Bucks started Jerryd Bayless against the Heat and by default will likely continue to give more regular minutes to Rashad Vaughn and Tyler Ennis as well. With Mayo joining Michael Carter-Williams and Steve Novak on the sidelines for the rest of the season, Milwaukee might also be able to get a disabled player exception to sign another guy, though to be honest I'm not sure it makes much sense to bring in a D-Leaguer with Vaughn and Ennis around. Both have struggled mightily to make any sort of consistent impact thus far, with Vaughn posting some historically poor rookie numbers and Ennis barely being visible in the short stretches of action he's seen this season. Oddly, Vaughn actually saw his minutes clipped in the Bucks' first game without Mayo on Wednesday, though that was largely due to Ennis playing a season-high 26 minutes and posting a very solid 8-point, 5-assist, no-turnover line against the Heat. Even before the Mayo news, Kidd suggested on multiple occasions that both guys would see more regular minutes, and with the Bucks out of the playoff race they might as well figure out how the two youngsters fit alongside the three-man core of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker and Khris Middleton.
What comes next for Mayo is less clear. A poor season certainly won't help his odds of landing another big pay-day in July, but he's also still just 28 years old, has developed into a likable locker room guy, and will presumably be ready for a bounce-back season if he can stay healthy. He could be a good fit in Milwaukee again next year for those reasons, especially with Bayless and Greivis Vasquez also hitting free agency and MCW's long-term future remaining cloudy at best. Ninety percent of the league will have cap space to play with this offseason, so odds are Mayo won't have to take a big pay cut despite his most recent struggles.