Thursday, March 27, 2008

Bittersweet O.J

During his first (and most certainly only) season at USC, OJ Mayo has become a lightening rod for criticism. His antagonistic, brash style has rubbed many onlookers the wrong way. And though talented, Mayo has failed to live up to the impossible "The Next Lebron James" expectations that preceded him.

Lost in the all the hoopla is that OJ Mayo is a fantastic guard who will be a lottery pick come draft night. Lets take a look at his game.

A cut 6'4'' 210 lbs, Mayo has tremendous body control and all-around athleticism; he looks like he could have played wide receiver in the NFL if this basketball thing didn't work out. Great handle with a lethal crossover and an outstanding first step. In the halfcourt, he has the ability to pull up on a dime and drain the mid-range jumper or go all the way to the rim for creative layups or explosive slams. Has legit NBA 3 range and is a solid free throw shooter. Solid passer with good court vision; he may shoot a bit too often in college because he can get his shot off so easily but he is surprisingly unselfish with the ball at times. Defense is very good, bordering on outstanding; he is tremendous picking up his man at 35 feet and staying in front of him and has quick hands for steals. An extremely confident player who has the courage to take and make the clutch shot.

For all his strengths, Mayo struggles to fit into a team-oriented style of play. Frankly, he is a ball-hog. He needs the rock in his hands to be effective; he does not move well off screens and does not fit as a catch-and-shoot guy. FG % is low because he shoots too often. Launches too many 3's or forced shots over defenders in the mid-range. Rebounding is average for a player of his physical ability. Struggled against Russell Westbrook of UCLA and though Westbrook projects as an All-NBA caliber defender, it raises questions of how tough defense affects Mayo's offensive game. His intangible are below average; he comes off as antagonistic and arrogant on the court. Does not seem to make his teammates much better.

On talent, Mayo should be a top 5 pick come draft night but the problem is ball-hogging guards are about as out of style in the NBA right now as tapered stone-washed jeans (thank you Stephon Marbury and Steve Francis!). The problem with Mayo is that he will never be able to lead a team to a title as a first man but his game as it is now is completely predicated around being "The Man". A tremendously talented but fatally flawed player, he projects as a cross between Larry Hughes and Stephon Marbury in the league. Look for him to go between 4-10 on draft night.

'The 300 Level' Entry #1: Biggie Bagel Wins Again

"Do you really want to win, or just look good losing" – Phonte from Little Brother

The Bulls don't want the Eighth Seed.

Eighth seed in the East, lets be honest, is like winning your IM B-League. You know, the league where the frats play their third string dudes like it's a damn JV game and there might be a dude out there in loafers. Teams don't have shirts, they have to borrow pennies, and they're one penny short, so they gotta switch when the dude with the loafers come into the game. It's like that. You've clearly got some skills, but you can't compete with the A-League where the dude you heard transferred from D-1 because he blew out his knee dishes to like the thirty year old assistant coach who got in cause he knows the ref, and the 6-4 hippie in Tevas (rainbows, if tevas are no longer the hippie sandal of choice) slams the put-back. (I've literally seen a 6-4 hippie dunk in the lane over some guys. Does every college IM ball have this dude?) My point is, sure you made it, but your not touching the elite teams.

See up here with 300 Level tickets you really need a close game and a team worth rooting for if you want an exciting game, and right now the Bulls rarely put either on display. Excitement for the Dunkin Donuts race is a good barometer for how good the game is (better than the literal fan barometer, the meter that measures the yelling of the crowd. More on this in later entries). For those not familiar with the Dunkin Donuts race, somewhere late in the third quarter the Bulls feature a three lap race between three personified Dunkin Donut products. Without getting into the details, Dashing Donut and Biggie Bagel race against Cuppy Coffee, all with about an equal chance of winning. Now, the discrepancy between the cheering for the game and the cheering for the race can pretty well show how into a game the crowd is. Recently, I would say Dunkin Donuts is beating the Bulls by about 1500%.

Without a team that has some direction and has guys consistently playing hard, that ratio is going to stand pat (Now cheering out of your mind because you won the free chipotle burritos for a year, that's understandable. That's just a damn good prize.) Unfortunately for the Bulls, they have neither of these elements. Some nights they lose to a lottery-bound eastern conference team and you think hey, maybe we can hit the lottery, get lucky, and get a quality draft pick. Other nights, they play like the hard-working Skiles led Bulls that we had come to know and love. But if they keep switching off then we get that eighth seed. No new assets, no real hope for the future of this core. We can do better than the IM B-League championship, either with a solid playoff showing, or a total collapse. But if we keep treading water, that A-League (I guess represented here by the 13 or 14 more legitimate teams than the bulls) will keep showing us how to do this. We might look better than a lottery team, but we'll definitely be losing like one. Phonte Holla at me!