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Amidst the Memphis Grizzlies first playoff run since the franchise traded Pau Gasol, Memphis has lost a key component to their success. After delaying his recovery time once before, Rudy Gay told the Memphis Commercial Appeal yesterday that his injury requires surgery and that he will miss the remainder of the season. With 11 games left and just a one game lead over the Phoenix Suns in the loss column (and two games over Houston), the loss of Gay may just boot the Grizzlies outside of the top eight in the West.
For Memphis to avoid collapsing down the stretch or in order for them to put up a fight against the San Antonio Spurs in the first round – their projected opponent if the season ended today – the Grizzlies are going to need big things out of O.J. Mayo.
Mayo reached a low point in his career this season when he was suspended for 10-games for violating the league and union’s anti-drug program by testing positive for dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). His poor play has led his benching and though he still holds a prominent position on the club as the sixth man, his performance of late has been far from satisfying the Grizzlies’ need for another scorer to step up. Tony Allen has actually turned himself into a more productive offensive weapon than Mayo which is shocking considering what most thought Mayo would be at this point in his career.
On the season Mayo is averaging just 11.3 points per game on 41% shooting from the field and 35% shooting from three. His transition to point guard was a project that flamed out in the summer and he’s actually producing the fewest assists per 40 minutes for his career this season. Mayo has not seen one aspect of his game take a step forward this season, a discouraging sign for 23-year old that showed so much promise at USC. His defense is still questionable and his offensive game has inexplicably gone by the wayside.
If Memphis is going to pose a serious threat in the first round as most thought they would with Gay in the line-up, they are going to need Mayo to step up and prove himself as a viable scorer in this league. We have seen Mayo produce well offensively before, but for whatever reason, he just can’t seem to find his groove. Against a team like the Spurs, Memphis is going to need to run a decisive offense that can attack on the inside and the outside. Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol can handle the paint with the best of them, but can Mayo raise his level of play to help the Grizzlies pull off a major first round upset?
We’ll see. But whether he does or doesn’t just impact the outcome of the series, but also his future in the NBA, so the stakes will never be higher for Mayo.