NBA AM: O.J. Mayo’s Free Agency Value Rising
The Memphis Grizzlies franchise, to be located in one of the league’s smaller markets, has invested heavily in their talent over the past few seasons in an attempt to climb the Western Conference ladder.
Small forward Rudy Gay was re-signed to a maximum deal worth around $82 million in 2010. Later in that year, point guard Mike Conley received a $45 million extension from the team.
In 2011, Memphis signed Zach Randolph to a four year extension worth $66 million and just before the 2012 season started the franchise signed up and coming big man Marc Gasol to a contract worth roughly $58 million.
If you’re keeping score at home that’s $250 million worth of salary commitments for those four players.
The formula has seemingly worked as the Grizzlies have made consecutive postseason trips for the first time since 2006.
With Gay, Randolph, Conley and Gasol all locked in long term, Memphis figures to be contenders for the foreseeable future.
But eventually, no matter how much money is flowing, someone will be left out from the bankroll.
That player is widely believed to be shooting guard O.J. Mayo, the No. 3 overall pick of the 2008 draft.
Mayo is set to become a restricted free agent this summer and it is very clear the team hasn’t figured out how to handle his situation. The Grizzlies will be able to match any offer received for his services.
Over the past two seasons Mayo has been traded multiple times with each deal breaking down in the waning moments before finalization and he’s also lost his spot in the starting lineup to guys with less overall talent.
Mayo may not be the supposed can’t miss prospect he was labeled coming out of the collegiate ranks, but he’s still an extremely good player who has a versatile offensive flow to his game – which plenty of teams are looking to add to their roster.
If the playoffs can boost a player’s free agency value, and they can, then Mayo’s figures to be improving by the minute during the 2012 postseason.
The fourth year veteran is averaging 18.5 points per game in the Grizzlies’ first-round playoff series versus the Los Angeles Clippers.
In game two on Wednesday night, Mayo helped break the game wide open for Memphis by scoring ten clutch points in the fourth quarter to lead the Grizzlies to victory and tie the series 1-1.
Mayo finished with 20 points in only 24 minutes of court time.
With $63 million in salaries already committed for the 2013 season, Memphis could land in luxury tax territory if they decide to match a lucrative offer for Mayo in free agency – a place which will be much more punitive under the new collective bargaining agreement.
At the end of the day, Mayo’s time in a Grizzlies uniform is likely winding down, especially if he continues his hot play throughout the playoffs.
Let’s take a look at a few of the teams who may be interested in Mayo this summer:
Even if the Boston Celtics win a title this season, it is safe to assume the big three era of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen will come to an end. The Celtics currently have just $35 million in salaries committed next season which will put them close to $23 million below the salary cap as it stands today.
Keep in mind the Celtics organization has always been impressed with Mayo’s game and even tried to trade for him this season at the deadline.
Indiana is another team who will have money to spend in free agency with just over $36 million in salary commitments for 2013.
One of the biggest holes in their roster is at shooting guard, even though Paul George has performed extremely well there while playing out of position.
Combo guard George Hill is likely to become a restricted free agent this summer, while veteran Leandro Barbosa will also hit the free agency market which would reduce the Pacers’ guard depth if they sign elsewhere.
The Nets are currently sitting on $41 million in salaries for next season entering the summer.
The team is moving into a new city, arena and have been trying to make a big splash in terms of bringing in top tier talent. It is no secret Brooklyn is looking to make major moves.
Yes, the Nets have the promising Marshon Brooks at two guard but it didn’t stop the team from trying to acquire Mayo from the Grizzlies for sharpshooter Anthony Morrow back in January.
Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers blew up the roster a couple months back and will be attempting to reload on the fly.
They also will have plenty of cap space to be players in the free agency market this summer.
The decision of former Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford to opt out of his deal creates a need for additional depth at shooting guard.
The Blazers’ first priority will be solidifying their void at point guard, but all rebuilding teams are looking for best available talents as well.
The Steve Nash era in Phoenix may be winding down. If so, the Suns are in a solid spot in terms of financial flexibility with just $32 million on the books for 2013.
The team can create even more room, if needed, by using the amnesty provision on swingman Josh Childress who is set to earn $6 million next season.
Speaking of the Phoenix Suns …
Suns’ Exec Says Team May Not Use Cap Space This Summer: For the second straight season the Suns are outside of the playoff picture and unrestricted free agent point guard Steve Nash has went public with a demand of seeing significant roster improvement before he would consider signing the dotted line on a new deal.
As mentioned earlier, the Suns are in an extremely favorable position to be active members in free agency this summer with less than $32 million committed for 2013.
The team could re-sign Nash, lure in an upper level talent to pair with him and sign a couple of second tier guys and realistically be back in the playoff mix next season (only finished 3 games behind eighth seeded Utah this season).
Or the team can go in another direction altogether.
“There’s a distinct possibility that we don’t use our cap room this summer,” Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby told Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic. “We’ve worked hard to put ourselves in this position to have this kind of flexibility, to have a range of opportunities, but I’m absolutely determined that we are going to be disciplined in how we approach this because we cannot get ourselves right back in the same spot we were in by doing bad contracts, not assessing value properly, not making the right choices in terms of personnel.”
Babby also said it is the team’s mission to re-sign Nash so he can eventually retire in Phoenix.
“Everybody here wants Steve Nash to retire as a Phoenix Sun, and we’re going to work very hard with him to make that happen,” Babby said.
One player who is part of the Suns’ long term plans is restricted free agent to be center Robin Lopez.
“Quite likely, if not certain, that we’re going to match,” Babby said of any offers received for Lopez. “He gave us a lot down the stretch this year. We need rim protection, and he gives that.”
Teams are rarely in the position Phoenix is in, so Babby’s cautious approach is worth noting.
“We’re not going to do that because I’m not going to sell false hope,” Babby said. “We’re going to build this thing brick by brick, however long it takes. All I ask our fans is to engage with us in the process and enjoy it as we grow.”
Kevin Durant Doesn’t Expect Shooting Woes To Continue: After two playoff games, Kevin Durant is averaging 25.5 points and 8 rebounds.
On the surface all appears well.
But isn’t the amount of points Durant has scored that is driving the storyline, it is how hard those buckets are coming which is driving the growing criticism.
Durant is shooting just 34 percent from the floor, 15-of-44 from the field, in the Thunder’s first round series versus the Dallas Mavericks.
But ask him if he believes his shot will return to form soon and his answer is simple.
“I do,” Durant said to Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman. “Because I come in and I put in the work. It’s not like I’m just sitting around and waiting for it to come to me. I try to force it a little bit with my work. So if it comes to me, I’ll know that’s because I worked hard. If it doesn’t, then I know I got to keep working hard. It’s just a matter of being mentally tough. I want to make shots. I want to be efficient. But I’m not right now. But I’ve got faith in myself and I’m positive that it’ll turn around.”
Thunder head coach Scott Brooks thinks it’s only a matter of time, but also credits the Mavericks’ Shawn Marion for being a great defender.
“[Durant is] getting good looks,” Brooks said. “(Shawn) Marion’s doing a great job, but he’s also getting great looks. It seems like he’s missing the open ones and making some of the contested ones. Hopefully he can make the open ones. But he’s fine. Kevin’s a terrific player that works hard, that works on his game … That’s the only way you can make shots, by keep doing what you’ve done to make them in the first place.”
The Thunder holds a 2-0 series lead over the Mavericks with game three set for Thursday night in Dallas.
NBA Chats: There are three NBA chats on the schedule today. Steve Kyler will kick things off at 10:30 a.m. EST. Next up, Joel Brigham will answer your questions at 1:30 p.m. EST. Finally, Mark Nugent will hold his weekly chat at 6:00 p.m. EST.