One of the biggest myths about the NBA has resurfaced during the Carmelo Anthony trade rumor mill, as teams like Chicago and New Jersey debate whether or not to part with non-superstar centers like Joakim Noah and Brook Lopez to get a proven superstar in ‘Melo. That myth:
Scorers come a dime-a-dozen.
Not true. Yes, any player who is good enough to be in the NBA would treat your Wednesday rec league to a heaping plate of Buckets Tempura. But the number of guys who can claim the title “elite scorer” on an NBA level is shorter than many people believe. Only seven players averaged 25 or more points per game last season, and only 16 topped the 20-ppg mark. Considering there are 400-something guys in the League, 16 doesn’t compute as “dime-a-dozen” territory.
Monta Ellis is one of those elite scorers. The Golden State Warriors’ guard dropped 25.5 points per game last season, to go with 5.3 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 2.2 steals. But because his team stank like old bus seats and coach Don Nelson‘s system gets too much credit for the accomplishments of its players, the fact that Monta put together one of the five most impressive offensive seasons in the NBA went overlooked.
While Monta continues to be underrated, O.J. Mayo has been arguably overrated. It dates back to middle school, when O.J. was declared the best player in the country for his age group — you know, the one still waiting on armpit hair and for their voices to stop cracking — and up through college, when analysts were better able to gauge his game against sufficient competition.
Going into his third pro season now, with career averages of 18.0 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.2 steals for the Memphis Grizzlies, O.J. is good, with potential to be great. But he may not become the superstar so many predicted him to be long ago. But then you could argue O.J.’s numbers are only where they are because he plays in a slower system with other talented scorers around him.
If you were an NBA GM and the opportunity arose to get Monta or Mayo, who would you target?
Of course you have to consider money. Monta is slated to make $44 million over the next four years, unless he opts out of his contract in 2013, otherwise he’s locked in for $33 million over the next three. Mayo, still under his rookie deal, will make $4.4 million this season, and the Grizzlies have a team-option to pay him $5.6 million the following year — then sign him to a long-term bigger-money extension that kicks in the following year. In other words, you know Monta is on the books for $11 million per year for a while. Mayo could potentially be cheaper down the road, or if he blows up this year, could be more expensive than Monta by the end of Monta’s deal.
O.J. (22) is younger and bigger (6-4, 210), but Monta (24) is faster and more athletic at 6-3, 180 pounds. Mayo is a better shooter, but Monta is more effective creating his own shot off the dribble and penetrating. Both are natural two-guards who could conceivably play point guard, but would have to learn a lot before being trusted to run a team full-time.
Who’s your pick?