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Mayo v. Rose

As has been mentioned numerous times before, long time Wolves fans know there are three certainties in life: death, taxes, and not moving up in the draft.  Seeing that the Wolves have the 3rd worst record in the league, lots of us diehards have been coming to grips with the squad landing anyone but Michael Beasley or Derrick Rose.  The two most mentioned non-Beasley/Rose potential Wolves are Brook Lopez and OJ Mayo.  Since we've already taken a look at Mr. Lopez, let's see what Mr. Mayo has to offer. 
Coming into the 2007-08 college season, OJ Mayo was viewed as a can't miss prospect at the top of the freshman class.  While Derrick Rose made it to the title game and the top of several draft boards, Mayo spent the year in a Tim Floyd offense surrounded by relatively  inefficient offensive players and above-average Pac-10 competition (to say nothing of the alleged ethical/recruiting violations that have just surfaced in the last week or so).  While Rose has clearly shown himself to be worthy of a top-5 pick, there is a question as to whether or not Mayo has done enough to remain near the top of his class and, more importantly for the Wolves, to ask if there really is that big of a gap between Rose and Mayo?
Let's begin with OJ.  For better or worse, Mayo was the USC offense.  He played in a stunning 91.1% of his team's court time, which was good enough for 27th in the nation.  He wasn't just out there running around; he was running the offense, taking shots, and handling the ball.  All in all, Mayo logged a 30.8 Poss%, good for 25th in the nation.  In plain English: he was on the court a ton with the ball in his hands.  While he was on the court, Mayo had the highest ORtg among Trojan regulars.  While his 105.2 Ortg is decidedly average in the grand scheme of net NCAA numbers, his rating was above his team's average as well as being quite favorable when adjusted for minutes played.  Mayo also ranked highly  in %Tm Stl, %Tm pts, and %tm fga.  Finally, he logged a 22.3 PER with a 18.5 EFF/40.  (More stats available here.)
Conversely, Rose played on a better team in a weaker conference while logging only 71.2% of his team's minutes and a Poss% of 27.1.  While his ORtg of 111.7 blew Mayo's number out of the water, when you take into account team pace and court time, the gap between the two is hard to define because of the differences in minutes logged and team style of play.  The bottom line here is that Rose put up better efficiency numbers (24.1 PER, 21.8 EFF/40, 111.7Ortg) but so did his team: USC had a 104.3 Ortg while averaging 65.7 possessions/game.  Memphis had a 114.1 Ortg while averaging 69.9 possessions/game.  If two equally good players operate in two different offenses, it isn't hard to see that the one who logs fewer minutes in a more efficient setting is going to have the better individual numbers.  The problem here is figuring out how to measure the gap between the players when their environment supplies a built-in differential. 

Derrick Rose played on a team that had an eFG% of 52.8%.  He had 5 teammates who played regular minutes with an Ortg over 110.  3 of his fellow regulars had an eFG over 50% (CDR- 59.2, Dorsey- 65.2, Antonio Anderson- 50).  On the other hand, Mayo played on a relatively inefficient offensive club that had a nice eFG number (53.3%), but with no players with a Poss% and Ortg combination that could compare with what Memphis had to offer.  In other words, USC had less effective guys on the court for more minutes.  Furthermore, while Mayo's 2nd hand man took 240 shots from the floor (Jefferson), Rose was paired with 3 players who put up more shots than USC's 2nd most dangerous offensive threat (CDR nearly doubled Jefferson's production.)  Pace and efficiency will do wonders for a guy. 
Perhaps the biggest lesson to be learned from all of this is that Derrick Rose is not only a tremendous player, but he also played for a tremendous team; a luxury not afforded to Mayo.  Considering his team's pace, style of play (lots of late-in-the-shot-clock-shots), supporting cast, efficiency, and overall numbers, OJ Mayo clearly performed in the same top-of-the-class atmosphere as did Rose, who had the benefit of a quicker pace, superior system, and better teammates.  Rose was also not called upon to shoulder the load of his team until the end of the year, while Mayo was thrown to the wolves from the opening tip.
All of this isn't to say that Mayo and Rose are equal players.  Rose's tournament performances are hard to overlook.  He also did a number of things much better than Mayo.  OJ's biggest red flags vis-a-vis the Wolves are his size, turrnovers, and free throw shooting.  In a measurement taken last year before the beginning of the season, OJ Mayo was listed at 6'4" with an 8'4" standing reach and a 6'6" wingspan.  At the same tournament, Rose was measured at 6'2" with an 8'3" standing reach and a 6'7" wingspan.  It will be interesting to see if either player has grown at all since the measurement, but either player will present the Wolves with the cold hard fact that if taken, 3 of their last 4 draft picks will have been spent on players 6'4" or under (it should be noted that McCants is an honorary 6'5" player due to his freakish wingspan and standing reach).  This red flag is neither Mayo nor Rose's fault. 
The 2nd red flag is Mayo's ability to get in the lane and draw fouls.  Mayo had a FTrate of 28.4.  Rose comes in at 46.9.  Nearly 40% of Mayo's shots came from behind the line compared to Rose's 24% from range.  Rose also played in an offense that encouraged dribble drives into the lane; precisely the type of behavior that will get fouls in the NBA (as well as being a solid indicator of how well he could run the pick and roll with Big Al). There is a caveat to this red flag: adjusted for pace, Mayo attempted 1.6 fewer FTAs/40 min than Rose.  However, thanks to his superior % at the line (+9.1%), he only had 0.7 fewer FTM. 
Mayo's final Wolves red flag is his low PPR (-3.71) and A/TO ratio (0.93).  These are pretty ugly numbers in any offense and they are especially ugly for a perimeter player.  To give you an idea of just how far behind he is on this one, Rose had a 1.52 PPR with a 1.77 A/TO ratio.  The only positive that can be taken from all of this is that Mayo had the ball in his hands for such a large amount of time, and that his teammates were so inefficient, and that his offensive system was so geared towards running down the shot clock, that such numbers were unavoidable. 
On the flip side of any red flags should be the mention that Mayo does a number of things better than Rose: he is a better perimeter shooter (+7.2% from 3), better rebounder (+ 2.4 reb%), and better defender (more steals and blocks).  He also may not be maxed out athletically.
While I know that a lot of people are quite excited about the possibility of Rose ending up in blue and green (or maybe some other color combo with the new unis), not a lot of thought has been given to the possibility that this draft is so weak that even the top end talent may not match up to past draft performers.  See if you can guess the following players:
Reb% Pts/40 eFG % of 3s a/to PPR PER
Player 1 15.9 23.7 49% 46% 1.41 -0.44 26.1
Player 2 14.4 22.5 52% 40% 0.93 -3.71 22.3
Player 3 12 20.4 52% 24% 1.77 1.52 24.1
Who are these fine gentlemen? 
  1. Randy Foye
  2. OJ Mayo
  3. Derrick Rose
It should be noted that Foye is effectively the same size as both of these players with more than adequate athleticism and strength.
It should also be asked how well a player like Foye or Mayo would have performed in a dribble drive motion offense like Memphis.  I personally can't think of a system that would be more suited to Foye's game than the offense that Memphis runs. 
Wrapping this thing up, the gap between OJ Mayo and Derrick Rose probably isn't as far as many people think, if it is there at all.  Mayo played a ton of minutes with the ball in his hands and was the most effective and dangerous player on a relatively inefficient offense without the threats and talent afforded to his more highly thought of peer.  Both players offer similar size and athleticism with their own set of positives and negatives.  Mayo has a few red flags as far as the Wolves are concerned, but with each one of these red flags, it could be argued that they were the result of environmental factors or, in the case of size, the Wolves' own personnel decisions.  
From my own point of view, when I started looking at Mayo v. Rose I didn't expect the gap to be so small.  Rose had a tremendous NCAA tourney and he was probably the best player on the 2nd best team in the post season.  However, from size to shooting to passing to scoring, Mayo was able to perform just as well within the confines of his own team setting as was Rose in his.  In fact, while Memphis as a team performed at a higher efficiency  than most of its top players (including Rose; CDR and Taggart were the only regulars to perform over the mark), Mayo was more efficient than the USC offense.  For all the talk about Rose being held back at the beginning of the season, USC's system weighted Mayo down like a lead balloon.   

The bottom line for me is that if you are willing to say that the Wolves should draft Derrick Rose if given the chance, there should be little in the way of extending the same kind thoughts to Mr. Mayo.  A Rose/Foye backcourt is pretty much the same thing as a Mayo/Foye tandem.  If anything, the latter would provide the squad with better defense and perimeter shooting. 

Anywho, it's just something to think about should the Wolves fall between 3-6 in the draft.