McDonald’s All-American. First-team All-Rookie. Blossoming Star. Talented Malcontent. Rejuvenated Scorer. Overweight Bench Player. Sixth Man of the Year?
Throughout his career, O.J. Mayo has played many different roles, but the last one on the list might not be as far-fetched as it may seem. Mayo has come off the bench for all eight Bucks games this season and scored 12.1 points per game, making him just one of 21 players averaging double-digit points primarily off the bench. He’s been consistently attacking the basket and not settling for mid-range jumpers.
According to basketball-reference.com, Mayo is shooting a career-high percentage of his shots at the rim and within 10 feet of the basket. This has also been reflected in a career-high free throw rate. With this improved approach, Mayo has been able to score more efficiently and look more like the player the Bucks thought they signed last offseason.
Although improved scoring alone would have been a welcome sight for most Bucks fans, Mayo has also arguably been the team’s best playmaker. With a big rotation and many young players playing in reserve roles, Mayo has been forced into a role as the team’s primary creator off the bench.
Among those 21 bench players with double-digit scoring averages, Mayo is one of six with three or more assists per game. Currently, Mayo is assisting on nearly 25 percent of the baskets scored by the Bucks while he is on the floor.
The NBA’s fancy new SportVU statistics allow us to see every pass on every possession, so we can dig a little bit deeper. Yesterday, Devin Kharpertian of the Brooklyn Game created something called Productive Passing Percentage, which tells us “which percentage of a player’s frontcourt touches leads to an assist, a secondary (“hockey”) assist, or pass that leads to a teammate drawing a shooting foul.”
Using Kharpertian’s formula, I calculated the Productive Passing Percentages for the Bucks and Mayo (14.94 percent) came out on top by a pretty significant margin.
Although the stats are impressive, moving away from the numbers helps tell an even more important story. Mayo has been a leader on the second unit and has embraced a new role as mentor for the Bucks’ young players, especially Giannis Antetokounmpo. With Mayo’s leadership and playmaking abilities on the second unit, the Bucks have the league’s highest-scoring bench.
I’m not sure if this is the O.J. Mayo I was expecting to see this season, but I’d be more than happy to see him stick around.
Clip of the Week
This week’s clip is the offensive highlight reel of Giannis Antetokounmpo from Saturday night against the Grizzlies. His speed and agility are quite impressive, but recognize the improved strength Antetokounmpo has shown going to the basket this season. Against some of the league’s strongest post players, Antetokounmpo regularly finished through contact.
What to Read
On the Young Bucks and making basketball cool in Milwaukee again: Hardwood Paroxysm’s Jack Maloney discusses the culture change happening in Milwaukee and how people may actually find fun basketball to watch when turning this Bucks team on their television.
Giannis vs. Z-Bo – A matchup for the ages: Jeremy Schmidt of Bucksketball broke down the action between Antetokounmpo and Grizzlie Zach Randolph in the final period on Saturday. The recap does a nice job showing why so many people were so excited after the Bucks victory over Memphis.
Bucks reserves aren’t taking a back seat to anyone: The Milwaukee Jounal Sentinel’s Charles Gardner discussed the NBA’s highest-scoring bench and the work it has done this season. His quotes from Jason Kidd should serve as a strong reminder that the team’s rotation isn’t getting shorter anytime soon.
Week in Review
Friday: Despite the best game of Jabari Parker’s young career (18 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 steals), the Bucks fell 98-95 to the Detroit Pistons Friday night.
Saturday: Giannis. Took. Over. And the Bucks gave the Memphis Grizzlies their first loss of the season on Saturday night. Antetokounmpo scored 12 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Bucks to a comeback victory.
Tuesday: Milwaukee beat a depleted Oklahoma City Thunder team to win consecutive games for the first time since March 19, 2013. Although the game was quite ugly, the Bucks had three players in double figures: Mayo with 19, Brandon Knight with 16, and Antetokounmpo with 14.
Next Week’s Preview
Friday: The Bucks start their weekend getaway in Florida against the Orlando Magic. Rookie Elfrid Payton has been fun to watch at point guard, but I’d guess most eyes will be on former Buck Tobias Harris, currently averaging 17.5 points per game.
Sunday: Although LeBron James left for Cleveland, the Miami Heat have been great thus far behind fantastic play from Chris Bosh, and will be a tough test for this Bucks team.
Tuesday: The Bucks return to Milwaukee on Tuesday to welcome the New York Knicks and first-year head coach Derek Fisher. Fisher’s Knicks have struggled, winning just two of their first nine games while trying to implement the triangle offense.
Wednesday: After a lone home game against the Knicks, the Bucks fly back to the East Coast to take on the 4-3 Brooklyn Nets. Lionel Hollins had the team off to a solid start before squabbling about ball movement.
Stats of the Week
9.9 – Brandon Knight is currently averaging 9.9 drives per game, which puts him eighth in the NBA. (via NBA Stats).
63.1 – Known for his defensive prowess, Larry Sanders is also a pretty great rebounder. Among players grabbing five or more rebounds per game, Sanders grabs the second-highest percentage of contested rebounds with 63.1 percent (via NBA Stats).
54 – The Bucks have done a great job protecting the rim to open the season. Teams are currently shooting 54 percent on shot attempts taken within 5 feet of the hoop. That number is the league’s fifth-best mark (via NBA Stats).
Quick Bucks is Milwaukee Magazine‘s weekly roundup of all things Milwaukee Bucks, written by Eric Nehm. You can yell at Eric or calmly explain to him why you celebrate more like Brandon Jennings or Sam Cassell on Twitter @eric_nehm. See last week’s column here.