NBA, The NBA's 30 Best Go-To Players / Sep 21, 2009 / 1:49 pm

The NBA’s 30 best go-to players (#26: O.J. Mayo)

O.J. Mayo

O.J. Mayo

Every NBA team has a go-to guy, and there’s really only room for one. And it’s not always about taking a last-second shot. It’s the guy who regularly gets the ball when things are getting tense in the fourth; the guy expected to calm things down when teammates are getting sloppy; the guy called upon to snuff out an opponent’s rally, or spark a rally of his own; the guy who’s not just supposed to make shots, but make the right decisions. Bottom line: Who do you want the offense to run through when everything is on the line? From #30 to #1, these are the League’s best go-to guys…

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#26: O.J. MAYO, Memphis Grizzlies

Just like Rip Hamilton, one of Mayo’s biggest obstacles in cracking the NBA’s elite as a go-to guy is that his spot on his own team isn’t secure. He spent the better part of last season wrestling top dog status away from Rudy Gay, and just when he seemed locked in being the “A” to Rudy’s “B,” here comes Allen Iverson, a man who — despite what he says in press conferences — has grown accustomed to running his own ship for the last 15 years. For Mayo, that makes establishing consistency and trust amongst his teammates as The Man in Memphis that much harder.

When he is entrenched as the go-to guy, Mayo (18.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 3.2 apg) is one of the more talented young’uns in the League in that role. He has a reliable jumper inside the arc — he shot 44.6% on two-point J’s as a rookie, 21st in the League according to 82games.com — and spent his summer working on his range (38% from three), among other things. He can also take on the assignment of guarding the other team’s go-to guy. By the end of last season, O.J. was trading crunch-time buckets and assists with the likes of Brandon Roy, Dirk Nowitzki, Caron Butler, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Martin, with the Grizzlies emerging with wins more often than expected.

Youth, inexperience and the predictable instability in his position as go-to guy are primarily what’s keeping O.J. low on this list. One thing he can control that he’ll have to improve is his playmaking ability — he tends to get shot-happy — or else find ways to get easier shots if he’s going to shoot a lot. At 6-4, Mayo is an undersized two-guard who doesn’t have elite athleticism by NBA standards. So a lot of times, he’ll end up taking (or settling for) a long jumper instead of getting to the basket to create a higher-percentage opportunity. (Having a dependable low-post scorer like Zach Randolph should help fix that, giving O.J. at least a good reason to pass the ball more.)

He’s got time, though. Even with the addition of Iverson, there’s no pressure for O.J. to turn the Grizzlies into a winner. The Grizzlies aren’t supposed to beat the League’s top teams yet, meaning O.J. is supposed to lose those game-within-a-game battles to more experienced crunch-time guys. And even if he finds himself deferring to the veteran A.I., this is a one-year rental; O.J. will have his spot back in 2010. If he does maintain his alpha dog spot, it’ll only make him stronger as a competitor. From there, it’s no bold prediction to say Mayo will find himself closer to legit superstar status soon enough.

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27. Stephen Jackson
28. Nate Robinson
29. Boris Diaw
30. Rip Hamilton

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  • dial up

    Considering that Allen iverson called last year his “down year”, and in that year he only took 14 shots at an amazingly pathetic 41.2% SHOOTING percentage. He’s gonna look for a lot more shots, and Rudy Gay i believe is gonna suffer. Is it possible for one team to have 3 players attempting 60 shots between them??? It’s possible, but the grizz are going to suffer the whole year. -

  • http://www.dimemag.com A-Slam

    I thought Mayo had the third highest vertical in the combine

  • sh!tfaced

    He can benefit only from AI’s presence, if he plays his cards right. Since he has some trouble creating his own shots at times, OJ can play, say, like Ray Allen to AI’s Paul Pierce role.

    Mayo is a classic combo guard and has a very mature game despite his age, doesn’t really force shots, knows his strengths and weaknesses, damn good composure and not a bad defender too.

  • Promoman

    O.J. will jack at times but isn’t a major ballhog. That’ll change once Iverson gets there and after he leaves. Mayo & Gay were among the top 5 perimeter combos in the league in shot attempts. You also have to wonder how things will go with Zach Randolph there too. The Grizzlies got better on paper but worse in chemistry. 40 wins & a top 10 pick in the lottery is their ceiling.

  • Kobeef

    It really is a shame that the Grizz passed on James Harden and Tyreke Evans this year. I believe that OJ is talented enough to play the lead guard role when he is paired with a playmaking SG like Tyreke or Harden.

    It is also really unfortunate that the Grizz signed Iverson. I think Iverson will stunt OJ’s growth as a player by taking the ball out of his hands for most of the game.


    How is Mayo higher than Rip?

  • The REAL Tyrone

    Mayo ain’t for shit yo. Cat’s a talented baller forsho, but he just be chuckin up them shots. He ain’t got no defense and he ain’t got no ability to be distributin them dope dimes y;all.

    True thugs NEVER lie.
    The Real Tyrone

  • doc

    He’s a beast.

  • TJ

    Does he be glass eatin’?

  • sh!tfaced

    he be a punkass too yo?

  • Chaos

    OJ is better than i thought he would be but i cant really consider him a go to player yet because of the fact that he is there with Rudy and A.I. and Zach coming in, it kinda knocks him down. he has been able to score in bunches last year and can get really hot really quick. dont knock thegame cuz he can D up but because he is young and not really a prototypical lockdown defender he will have nights that he’s gonna get ate up up. i would A.I. for the go to scorer instead of OJ

  • simple logic

    there’s no way OJ is a better go to guy than Stephen Jackson.

  • Dave

    Rudy Gay is a much better and more efficient player than OJ look how many more shots OJ jacked up than Rudy

  • the cynic

    i was thinking Mayo for this spot, but thought AI would have bumped him. Mayo is going to be a star if the grizzles somehow manage to not screw him up

    Austin stop giving K-Mart so much credit and get him out of the way

  • SagJism

    How is @26 to @29 higher than Rip, TCT – That’s crazy talk.

  • Jake

    I’m sorry but there is absolutely no way that a guy who has only played one season should be ranked above a proven player like Rip or Captain Jack or his own teamate, Rudy Gay for that matter.

  • kevin k

    Rip is a joke. A guy who can’t create his own offense a go-to player?? Rudy Gay was barely, and i mean barely more efficient than Mayo. Rudy gay is 4 inches taller, more athletic, and was in his 3rd year and yet his stats are pretty similar to Mayo. Mayo also has higher 3% and ft% than Gay so how is Gay > Mayo. Capt Jack played in a freaking up tempo system where he had the control of the ball majority of the time. If you watched Memphis play, which i know for a fact none of you scrubs did, Mayo plays mostly within the system and doesn’t hog the ball at all.

  • KB24

    Mayo got bunnies….