When O.J. Mayo told Sports Illustrated‘s Chris Mannix there were times last year where he wasn’t sure he even wanted to play basketball anymore, my eyes opened. I’ll admit that Mayo is and always will be one of my favorite players. His ruthlessness in high school hooked me. Three years into his pro career, I never would’ve guessed that someone had stolen his confidence. But it definitely happened.
One thing you realize when speaking to enough players is that it’s more about the situation than it is the player. Sure, there are times when someone loses motivation, and their game falls off. But take away the very best players in the world, and what do you have left? Dozens of guys who could excel in one system, and flounder in another. Mayo could probably average 20 points a game on Golden State if the two teams ever went through on the rumored Mayo and Thabeet swap for Monta Ellis. But in Memphis, he’s a backup shooter.
Look at Rashard Lewis in Washington. His efficiency actually improved after he was traded from Orlando. His rebounding and assist rates went way up while his money shot stayed pretty fresh. But on a young team with a rookie dominating the ball, how many opportunities was he going to have?
While I still harbor hopes that Juice will one day develop into the All-Star I thought he would be, I’m not naÃ¯ve. Last year he didn’t play like one, didn’t even play like a starter. His minutes dropped by nearly a quarter of the game (down to 26.3) and his true shooting percentage took a nosedive down below 50 percent, way below the league average. Considering the strongest part of his game is his shot-making, that was a major red flag. Most telling perhaps was his turnover rate (down from 13.85 his rookie year to 10.96 last year) and the percentage of his baskets that were assisted (way up to 66%). Once considered a scorer, Mayo turned into a shooter. Memphis banished him to the off-ball corners and wings, and he became a secondary option. While he had less opportunities to turn it over, he also had less opportunities to make plays and expand his game. As a rookie, he looked like a lock to eventually average 21-23 points, 4-5 rebounds and 4-5 assists. Now, he’s admitted he lost his confidence and that last year was one of the hardest of his career.
While Mayo eventually adjusted towards the end of the season, he still has too much talent to be a background singer. He’s not the only one who desperately needs a bounce-back season. As I wrote earlier this summer about players who need to sink or swim this year, hit the jump for nine other NBA pros that could really use the pick-me-up.
Ask Brooks how feeble an NBA career can be. He’d know as well as anyone. In 2008, he was a hungry backup scratching for a few minutes a game. Two years later, he was one of the most dangerous players in the Western Conference, parlaying a big postseason into a 2010 season that saw him average nearly 20 a night and earn the Most Improved Player award. But last year, he fired blanks from nearly everywhere outside of the paint.
Brooks will probably end up back in Phoenix now that they’ve picked up his qualifying offer. The Suns can match any offer he receives, and those figure to be light after the past year.
While there’s little chance that Steve Nash and AB would ever work together in a backcourt (although it could be really exciting), what happens if Nash is traded before the deadline? Brooks could be in line for a major spike in production.
Chances at a bounce-back: 40 percent
A drop in production for a soon-to-be 32-year-old swingman is normal. But the way Salmons went about it was completely odd. His assist rate (22.1) was the highest it’s been since 2007, and his rebounding per minute actually spiked up compared to his first half season in Milwaukee. His floor game was fine, but that wasn’t at all what Milwaukee needed. They needed a scorer and Salmons had been that guy for them during the 2010 playoff race.
If you were one of those unlucky fantasy people who drafted Salmons (like me) expecting to get a solid offensive option, by the end of the year you were hitting yourself for keeping him around. All of his shooting numbers dropped, most alarmingly his field goal percentage (from 47 percent to 41.5). But that’s what happens when you take less shots at the rim then you have in any season since 2007 while shooting more long twos â€“ at 35 percent â€“ than you ever have.
Now that he’s back in Sacramento, can he find his game again? Not likely considering he doesn’t figure to have the ball in his hands that much.
Chances at a bounce-back: 20 percent
The real question is can he bounce back? Will his body let him coming off multiple knee surgeries? Last year in Orlando, Arenas’ game took a complete nosedive. Even as a Wizard to start the year, he still put up 17 a night, albeit with terrible efficiency. But once he moved to Disney World, the floor fell out.
Once perhaps the most dangerous point guard at the basket, Arenas hit only 46% of his shots at the rim. Once a guy who made three baskets from there every game, he was now only getting there barely more than one time a night. While his midrange game stayed somewhat consistent, his outside shot completely fell off. In 49 games with the Magic, he hit less than 30 percent from outside 16 feet. To me, that all spells it out. His legs are gone. There’s no lift. Hopefully an increase in minutes will refocus him, and another fresh summer will get back some of that old Agent Zero. I’m not sure I see it though.
Chances at a bounce-back: 15 percent
There’s one thing I can always count on during every one of my fantasy basketball drafts. One of my last picks will be spent on Biedrins. Ever since he averaged 12/11 with 1.5 blocks in 2009, I’ve taken a chance on him. It hasn’t worked the last two years mainly because of one thing: confidence.
Because he’s such a terrible free throw shooter (at 16 and 32% the last two years, he makes Ben Wallace look good), Biedrins now plays as if someone is constantly telling him “No!” He’s a puppy, trained to obey and then when he gets out on the floor, all he’s doing is looking for someone to tell him “No!”
The only reason he gets minutes is because of his activity and rebounding. What happened last year? His rebound rate was his lowest (17.3) since getting starter’s minutes, and his blocks dipped in half of where they were in 2007.
With a new system, and a healthy ankle, maybe this is the year I’ll get my reward for holding onto him.
Chances at a bounce-back: 50 percent