Nomadic O.J. Mayo eager to prove himself in Milwaukee

This is the seventh in a 15-part series running Wednesdays and Fridays profiling each Milwaukee Bucks player leading up to the start of the NBA season.

Lately, O.J. Mayo’s career has been a bit nomadic. After a new regime all but ended his career in Memphis, the third overall pick in the 2008 draft couldn’t find a longterm deal on the open market.

After signing a one-year deal and starting all 82 games last season for Dallas, Mayo is ready to settle down with the Bucks. Milwaukee committed $24 million over three seasons to the 25-year-old, hoping he can fill some of the scoring void vacated with the departure of the team’s two high-scoring guards.

But this is more than just a chance for Mayo to lead a team in scoring, as he has an opportunity with the Bucks to enter the prime of his career as a team leader. Mayo needed this shot in Milwaukee, but the Bucks also need him to step up if they have any chance of making the playoffs.

2012-13 stats: 15.3 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 4.4 APG, 44.9 FG %, 40.7 3-point FG %, 82.0 FT % in 82 games with Dallas

2013-14 salary: $8,000,000

Last year: Mayo finished the season as Dallas’ second-best scorer, averaging 15.3 points per game, but he carried the offensive load when Dirk Nowitzki was out for the first 27 games of the season with a knee injury.

Averaging 20.9 points per game in November of last season, Mayo proved he could score as a team’s number one option. The second half of the season was a different story. Mayo faded down the stretch and  averaged just 10.9 points per game after the All-Star break.

His scoring average dropped as the season wore on, averaging just 8.6 points per game in nine April games. Mayo’s shooting percentage dropped late in the year, but he still finished with the second-best field-goal percentage of his career at 44.9 percent and shot a career-best 40.7 percent from beyond the arc.

It was a tale of two seasons for Mayo with the Mavericks — one really good half and one below average half for his standards. That left his overall numbers somewhere right in the middle.

This year: Mayo is more than likely going to be Milwaukee’s top scoring option. The Bucks need him to be the player he was early in his career with Memphis or the high-level scorer he was early last year with the Mavericks.

Coming into the league with high expectations, Mayo averaged 18.5 and 17.5 points per game in his first two years with the Grizzlies. Now he has a chance to be that guy again, but will have a little help from Brandon Knight, Caron Butler and Ersan Ilyasova.

The Bucks have talked at length about how they have a lot of talent on the roster, and Mayo is a prime example. Will Mayo ever realize his potential and become a consistent top-level scorer in the league? Milwaukee is banking on that happening as he enters the prime of his career.

Mayo is never going to have a better chance to be “the guy” for a team. He’s already stepped up as a leader early in training camp, something that must continue if the Bucks want to meet their goals.

From the front office: “We need him. We need him to play well and to have a good year for us. He’s been in two different situations with two successful teams. The one thing that really impressed me with O.J. was the circumstance he went through in Memphis. He comes out as the third pick in the draft and comes right out of the chute averaging over 18 points per game his rookie year. They made a coaching change and Lionel Hollins came in and had him come off the bench. I know looking from afar and observing him, I really appreciate the way he handled that situation. You never heard him say a bad word about a teammate, you never heard him say a bad word about the coach, you never heard him say a bad word about the organization or say ‘Trade me.’ I hope he plays well and performs well, I expect him to do that, but I’m really excited about the kind of person he will be for our team. He’s a guy that’s excited about being here.”
— Bucks general manager John Hammond