Know the Prospect: O.J. Mayo

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Here begins Posting and Toasting's 2008 edition of "Know the Prospect", where we familiarize you with some potential Knick draftees. Last year, New York had the 23rd pick, so our pool was a wide range of lesser-known players. This year, we're at number 6, so you've probably heard of every one of the guys mentioned. Even so, we'd like to break down the game of each prospect as best we can and get a sense of how they might fit on the Knicks. Today, it's USC's O.J. Mayo.

- The basics: O.J. is short for Ovinton J'Anthony. If Mayo went by either or both of these names, I'd be more than happy to have him in New York. Instead, he goes by initials that typically refer to a traditional (albeit underrated) breakfast drink or that guy from The Naked Gun. Mayo is listed at 6'5'', 200, and will be 21 in November (despite leaving as a freshman).

- Mayo is described as a big, strong, confident combo guard who can create his own shot anywhere in the floor. He's smart, hard-working, and responds well to coaches and teammates. His weaknesses on the court appear to include a constellation of symptoms colloquially referred to as Jamal Crawford Syndrome (JCS). From his profile:

• Stuck between 1 and 2
• Poor shot-selection
• Low shooting percentages
• Turnovers
• Reliance on outside shot
• Does not get to free throw line enough

Sound familiar?

- One advantage he does have over our resident trigger-happy combo guard is strength and a commitment to aggressive defense. Because the Knicks are so badly in need of some D, I asked Paragon SC of Conquest Chronicles to break down Mayo's defensive game. His summary:

Positives
-He has solid lateral movement and a nice wingspan, which helps him stick with quicker guards (e.g. Derrick Rose).
-His size allows him to guard bigger PG's and SG's (e.g. Jerryd Bayless)
-His extensive AAU experience makes him a seasoned vet against top notch players.  
-Knows how to play aggressive defense without getting into foul trouble.
Negatives
-Tends to gamble and play overaggressively at times (e.g. James Harden).
-Not strong off picks.
-Tends to float at times and let his player gain positioning for put-backs.
-Can struggle against physical/aggressive guards.

- Coming out of high school, the much-hyped Mayo was criticized for a poor attitude on the court. However, at the end of the season, CC had this to say about Mayo as a teammate:

The one thing that was refreshing was Mayo's attitude. He was not the thug that he was made out to be and he has been nothing if not polite and he has grown with his team mates and not alienated himself from them. There was also a lot of talk about Mayo's game in general, I thought Billy Packers comments were premature considering that he had hardly seen Mayo play and that the burden placed on him expected too much from him. I think most of us would agree that Mayo probably needs another year but most top prospects for the NBA always need a little more polishing.

- That description, which is in tune with most opinions I've read on Mayo's freshman year, should be taken in conjunction with the swirl of controversy that surrounds Mayo. We've all been hearing about accusations of his taking money and gifts as a college high school student, and abundant hype from a very early age has given the kid an undeniably cocky streak. So, questions of his character aren't completely unwarranted, but we'll give him the benefit of the doubt.

- Finally, if you're not familiar, here's a sharp little highlight reel showcasing some of Mayo's offensive talent. He is truly a threat from everywhere on the floor

In closing, there's a lot to like. Offensively, Mayo ranks with Rose and Beasley among the best in this draft class. I think there is little question that he'll make a successful and lethal NBA scorer. I just don't know if he fits in New York. We've already got a nice stable of score-first combo guards. If there's anything that piques my interest, it's Mayo's defensive potential and point guard ability, both of which are relative wild cards. In the end, Mayo seems to be the available player with both the greatest potential risk and reward. Coming off a run of losing seasons earmarked by risky moves that failed, I can't see Walsh and D'Antoni rolling the dice with the draft choice most likely to polarize fans and media. Mayo's a hell of a player, but probably isn't going to be a Knick...and probably shouldn't be.

SML is up next and I believe he'll be covering Italy's Danilo Gallinari. I'll let you know when that's up. Until next time...get them draft picks!

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