How to Fix O.J. Mayo's Recent Struggles with the Dallas Mavericks

Ross BentleySenior Analyst IFebruary 14, 2013

DALLAS, TX - FEBRUARY 09:  O.J. Mayo #32 of the Dallas Mavericks dribbles the ball against Kent Bazemore #20 of the Golden State Warriors at American Airlines Center on February 9, 2013 in Dallas, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Early on in the season, it appeared as though O.J. Mayo of the Dallas Mavericks was going to be in for an All-Star season. 

Coming over from Memphis, Mayo was finally given the opportunity to show just how good of a scorer he could be at the NBA level. Early in the season when the Mavs were forced to try to tread water without Dirk Nowitzki, it was Mayo who took control and kept the team relevant. 

In fact, for the first month or so of the season, Mayo was in the top 10 in scoring in the NBA, averaging over 20 points a game. 

Here is a video of ESPN's Tim Legler talking about the impact that Mayo had on the Mavericks earlier in the season. 

While Mayo hasn't fallen off the map completely since, he hasn't exactly been as consistently dominant as he was early in the year. 

For whatever reason, Mayo hasn't really been able to be as effective in the last four to six weeks as he was in the season's first 25 games. 

Currently Mayo is averaging 18.0 PPG, still amongst the league leaders in the NBA, but down from his early numbers.

Partially as a result of his falling off, the Mavs have tumbled. Dallas has been unable to climb back into the playoff race after having a miserable December, going only 5-10. 

The biggest problem with Mayo's performance has been his consistency. In February alone, Mayo bookended his stellar 19-, 19-, and 28-point performances with 10- and eight-point duds.

Mayo also takes sporadic amounts of shots from the field. On some nights he will jack it up close to 20 times, while other times he disappears on the offensive end, not even registering 10 shots while playing second or even third fiddle.

There is no doubt that Mayo has the scoring ability to be a consistent night-in, night-out 20-point scorer, but he just hasn't been able to find that continuity the last month and a half. 

Part of the problem is that Mayo is still getting used to playing alongside Dirk Nowitzki. Dirk missed the first two months of the season with a knee injury, and after returning in late December, Mayo has had to make the change from being the team's No. 1 option to its No. 2 man.

Despite the team's struggles, it is hard to argue that the team isn't better off with both Mayo and Nowitzki in the lineup. Still, although Nowitzki is the more decorated scorer, this year's team seems to do better at least for the time being when Mayo plays well.

Interestingly, in games in which Nowitzki scores 20 or more points and Mayo doesn't, the Mavericks are 0-3. However, when Mayo scores over 20 and Nowitzki doesn't in games they have played together, the Mavericks are 3-1.

Although the sample set may not be big enough to claim that Mayo should be the top option on offense, at the very least it indicates that Mayo scoring usually means good things for this Mavericks team. 

Mayo also has dealt with extra attention on the defensive side of the ball. Now that Mayo is no longer the bench player he was in Memphis, teams are beginning to realize his scoring prowess; therefore they are adjusting to take away his game, especially his three-point shot. 

Here is a graph of Mayo's three-point shooting percentages in each month of the season this year (not counting October, which only had two games played). 

As you can see, Mayo's numbers dropped off significantly from beyond the arc after November, before getting his shot back so far this month. Some of the dropoff had to do with Mayo just cooling off. Yet other teams also made the adjustment on defense, and Mayo has not been able to keep getting as many quality looks.

So how do O.J. Mayo and the Mavericks go about fixing their problems for the remainder of this season?

The best way for Mayo  to get his game back on track is  to be more consistent on the offensive end. It partially needs to come from the coaching staff and his teammates as well, but Mayo should be getting between 15-20 shots every night. 

Mayo is clearly the best perimeter scorer on the Mavericks. Without a ton of big scoring options, Mayo should be more involved in the offense early in games, so he can establish himself. Mayo can then settle in as the game goes on, when Dirk Nowitzki begins to take over in the second half.

Mayo is also an above-average passer for his position, so if he begins to get doubled, he can find the open men and allow guys like Darren Collison and Shawn Marion to get more involved. 

Dallas also needs to start running more set plays to get Mayo coming off screens for jumpers. While Mayo is a guy who does his best work with the ball in one-on-one scenarios, the best way to get his shooting percentage up is to get him quality looks—and the best way to do that is to run sets and set screens that put him in position to take open jump shots. 

Here is an example of the Mavs running a great out-of-bounds play that allowed Nowitzki to screen for Mayo to get an open catch-and-shoot three against Oklahoma City. 

Finally, Mayo and Nowitzki need to get on the same page once and for all.

If Mayo re-signs with the Mavs after this season, a Mayo-Dirk combo could be something that the two players will need to get used to for the next several years. Part of the reason why the Mavericks were so good offensively in the Nowitzki-Jason Terry era is that the two of them trusted one another 100 percent on the court. 

Mayo and Nowitzki are both dynamic offensive players, but if they fail to get on the same page, it will only cause turmoil and more losses for the Mavericks in the future. 

Dallas still has time to turn its season around this year, but if the Mavs are going to do it, it will largely be up to O.J. Mayo to be consistently effective for the final 30 games.  

Mayo will have the All-Star break this weekend to clear his head, but when he comes back he'll need to shoulder a bigger load for the Mavs to will them back into the West's top eight.