Let's say you had to do this year's draft all over again right now. Joe Alexander would drop out of the top ten, probably replaced by Jason Thompson. Eric Gordon probably drops. There's no telling where Danilo Gallinari would get drafted. Nicolas Batum would be a lottery pick. Luc Mbah a Moute, too. Let's not talk about Freedom Fries.
However way you slice it, though, Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley, and OJ Mayo have to be the top three picks. Beasley's been coming off the bench, apparently because he's looking more and more like a three, rather than a four, and the Heat are better off separating him from Marion against traditional lineups. It's a bit of a hiccup, but he's clearly a super-talented guy. In much more limited minutes, Beasley's had roughly the same amount of success as Rose, who's the mainstream's frontrunner for Rookie of the Year honors. Don't get me wrong: Rose is showing all signs of being a franchise cornerstone for years.
But the tide is changing. Thus far, OJ Mayo has been on a season-long tear. Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade are the modern day gold standard for the "shooting guard who plays point in crunch time". Only a step down, we've got Brandon Roy and Joe Johnson, both of whom can do it all and are nowhere near career decline. But there, lurking among the leaders in per minute scoring among shooting guards, is OJ Mayo.
Maybe Mayo's scoring is a bit of a mirage. Maybe he's bound to have more games like the one he had when the Bobcats pummelled the Grizz a month ago. But that's to be determined. As of now, consider that at Mayo's age, Roy was playing his final season at Washington. Joe Johnson was in his first full season with Phoenix, struggling to play alongside Stephon Marbury and an aging Penny Hardaway. Dwyane Wade was playing his final year at Marquette. And Kobe---well, Kobe was winning his first title and playing sidekick to Monster Shaq. It was Kobe's last season before kicking it up to the notch he's at now. Considering his advanced defensive skills on top of the impressive offense, you shouldn't be shocked if OJ Mayo ends up better than Tracy McGrady when all is said and done.
Tonight, the Bobcats host Mayo and the Grizzlies. Ultimately, Memphis has three clear paths to victory, in descending order of likelihood:
- Mayo goes off big, and they play great D to hold the Cats to a below-average score.
- The Grizzlies' reserves pound the Bobcats's reserves, while the starters hold their own.
- Rudy Gay goes nova, and they play great D to hold the Cats to a below-average score.
I'm less worried that Gay will destroy Gerald than I am Hakim Warrick will run roughshod over Juwan Howard. However, I'm very worried about putting Raja on Mayo. I'd love to put Gerald on him, but that's not happening with Gay at the three. Raja's been a pleasant surprise on defense, especially in the Blazers game against Roy, so here's hoping he can replicate that lockdown.
Dare I say it?
I feel confident.
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