With Dirk Nowitzki set to miss the next six weeks, the Dallas Mavericks will lean more heavily on O.J. Mayo to be an offensive centerpiece. He’ll have to score more and be more efficient when doing so to help keep the Mavs afloat on that side of the ball.
But offense isn’t the only place he’ll need to help his new team. Mayo will need to step up on the defensive side of the ball as well. Just ask his head coach, Rick Carlisle. He’ll be happy to let you know that scoring simply won’t be enough from the former Grizzly. And, to his credit, Mayo looks to be getting the message:
“I’ve got to get better,” Mayo said. “You can point fingers at any individual, but if you notice any good teams that get after it defensively, it’s five guys all pulling on a string. I rate myself as good as my team is.”
Mayo is saying the right things today but will need to show more on the court. He has all requisite tools to be a strong defender — good size, length, and athleticism — but hasn’t yet put it together to really make a difference on that end of the floor. In fact, over the course of his career, he’s been a net negative on D from a team perspective while posting individual defensive numbers that were not up to standard (Synergy ranks him as the 370th best defender overall in terms of points allowed per play).
Rick Carlisle knows that to be a true contender, a team has to play top level defense. When his Mavs won the championship in the 2010-11 season, Dirk and the offense may have gotten the headlines, but the team ranked 8th in defensive efficiency (points allowed per 100 possessions) by running creative schemes and getting the stops they needed.
Carlisle built a defense around Tyson Chandler’s paint presence, Shawn Marion’s inside/outside versatility, and Jason Kidd pestering perimeter threats. Today, only Marion remains from that group and Mayo will have to step in to help corral the bevy of strong offensive wings littered across the league.
If he’s up to the task, he’ll be a much more complete and valuable player to a Mavs team that could surprise some people after an off-season makeover. If he’s not, Carlisle may find himself closing games with Mayo on the bench because he’s not helping to get the stops the team needs.