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Who’s Better: Derrick Rose or O.J. Mayo?

By 12.09.08

We argue. You decide…

DERRICK ROSE (by Christian Grant-Fields)
I hate to sound like a douchebag, but come on; Derrick Rose wasn’t the first overall pick in the NBA Draft for nothing. Let’s break down why O.J Mayo, who received national recognition since he was in the seventh grade, wasn’t.

Look at their college careers. Both stayed for only one year, and in that one year Rose came within a three-point shot of winning the National Championship, while O.J. got knocked out in the NCAA Tournament first round. Memphis and USC, respectively, had deep rosters: Joey Dorsey, Antonio Anderson, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Robert Dozier for the Tigers, and Taj Gibson, Daniel Hackett and Devon Jefferson for the Trojans, just to name a few.

Derrick RoseDerrick Rose, Dime #32

The difference in the squads was the point guard play. O.J. and Hackett split time at the one for USC, while D-Rose came in and made everyone better … and that is what he is doing for the Chicago Bulls now.

Yeah, O.J. averages more points (21.0) and shoots better from three-point range (.389), but Derrick is not too far behind, dropping 18.5 points a night and shooting 49 percent from the field. Rose is also coupling those buckets with 6.1 assists per game. For a guard with weapons on his team like Rudy Gay (19.5 ppg), Hakim Warrick (9.7) and Marc Gasol (11.8), Mayo only dishes out 2.5 assists a game. Rose has six games this season where he has tallied nine assists or more. Mayo only has two games with five assists or more. Go figure.

Mayo will have a long career in the NBA as a professional scorer. I have no doubt in my mind that he could possibly lead the NBA in scoring some day, but Rose has the potential to be a player like Chris Paul, just way more athletic.

O.J. MAYO (by Austin Burton)
Don’t be swayed simply by the fact that Derrick Rose is in the All-Star ’09 discussion while O.J. Mayo’s name has barely surfaced. Not to play the “What if?” game, but you’ve gotta chalk that one up to circumstances.

Rose is playing for a more talented (albeit still below-.500) team, in a system where he dominates the ball and has carte blanche, in a conference that’s lighter at the guard spots. While Rose battles the Jose Calderons and Rajon Rondos of the world for an All-Star reserve spot, O.J. is up against the likes of Baron Davis, Steve Nash, Brandon Roy, Deron Williams, Kevin Durant and Chauncey Billups. For a rookie playing on a terrible team in a small market with no TV presence, no wonder he’s getting minimal All-Star consideration.

O.J. MayoO.J. Mayo, Dime #17

But step back and take a real good look at their pro resumes. Mayo ranks 15th in the NBA in scoring (21.0 ppg), highest among rookies and tops on a Grizzlies squad where he’s not even the offensive focal point. Less than two months into the season, O.J. already has seven games of 25-plus points under his belt, two of them against the Spurs. As an undersized (6-foot-4) shooting guard — where he’s inevitably going to take a lot of three-pointers because the Grizzlies are constantly playing from behind — Mayo is hitting an astoundingly high 47.1 percent from the field and is money from the charity stripe at 87.8 percent.

And that’s just this season. Throughout their basketball lifetimes, O.J. Mayo has been the standard by which Derrick Rose is judged. Going back to middle school and through college, O.J. was the rarely-disputed top player in the national high school Class of ’07, which produced 10 first-rounders in the ’08 NBA Draft. Just because Rose had his name called first on Draft Night, don’t think that alone means he’s better.

You think O.J. couldn’t have flipped a Memphis scholarship into a No. 1 selection? That he couldn’t have owned Conference USA while leading the ultra-talented Tigers to the brink of a national title? I was at Madison Square Garden last season when Mayo and Rose went head-to-head. Mayo outscored Rose 16-9, but what stood out most was his defense. Guarding Rose straight-up most of the time, O.J. shut him down, allowing Rose just nine shots and helping force him into five turnovers.

If Rose — explosive, athletic, kinetic — is the next Baron Davis on the court, O.J. is the next Chauncey Billups; efficient, consistent, shooter and slasher, better defender, a versatile guard who can play both backcourt spots and ultimately be a top option on a championship team. His numbers (2.5 assists) and role in Memphis don’t show it, but Mayo has point guard skills, and the sooner he moves there and utilizes the size and strength advantages he’ll have over opposing ones, he’ll be a beast. And given the choice between Baron and Chauncey, whom would you take?

Who do you think is better?

“Who’s better?” archives
12/8 — Rasheed Wallace vs. Elton Brand
12/5 — Kevin Martin vs. Vince Carter
12/4 — Brandon Roy vs. Joe Johnson
12/3 — Dwight Howard vs. Yao Ming
12/2 — Paul Pierce vs. Carmelo Anthony


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