DALLAS -- If you judge just by scoring average, March has been O.J. Mayo’s worst month by far in a Mavericks uniform. Yet coach Rick Carlisle considers Mayo a much-improved player.
The fact that Mayo is averaging only 12.8 points per game this month – a drastic drop from the 17.9 he averaged before the All-Star break – doesn’t concern Carlisle at all. While Mayo is taking a lot fewer shots, this has been his most efficient month.
In 13 March games, Mayo is shooting 49.6 percent from the floor and 53.5 percent from 3-point range, both his best marks for a month this season. He’s also dishing out 4.8 assists per game, his second-highest total for a month, and has slashed his turnovers to a season-low 1.5 a night.
Carlisle considers all that to be evidence that Mayo has received his message.
“Generally, our team functions better when he plays an efficient all-around game,” Carlisle said. “There are nights when we need him to step up his scoring, but it’s not a situation where he needs to come into each game thinking he’s got to score 20 or 25. It’s just not like that. And I think when he’s in an all-around-play and ball-movement mode and finding people, he does a really nice job of playmaking.
“That’s a big part of our game because he’s always going to be aggressive to score, and when the shots are there he takes them. When he sees both the shot opportunities and the teammates, that’s when we’re in business.”
Mayo is no longer the Mavs’ leading scorer this season. His averaged has dropped to 16.51 points per game, three-hundredths of a point behind Dirk Nowitzki.
A selfish player would see his scoring average drop and make hunting for shots a priority. That’s especially true with Mayo set to hit the free agent market again this summer, assuming he declines his option to make $4.2 million in the second season of his contract and looks for a long-term deal.
The 25-year-old Mayo, however, has shown the maturity to not force things within the Mavs’ flow offense.
He’s improved “massively” as a facilitator this season, according to Carlisle, who criticized Mayo after a five-turnover outing against Milwaukee a month ago. Carlisle, who has given large helpings of tough love to Mayo all season, declared then that Mayo “was not a creator” and needed to keep the game simple.
Since then? Mayo has consistently made simple, smart passes.
“He’s improved his recognition of the overall game, he’s improved his recognition in pick-and-rolls, being able to see the shot opportunity or the teammate on the roll or the pop,” Carlisle said. “He works hard at it and he wants to be really good.”
Would Mayo prefer for the Mavs to run more plays with pindowns or screens designed to get him shots? Sure, probably. But Mayo wants to win, and if that means moving the ball instead of shooting it, he’s more than willing to do it.
“I’m a scorer and can shoot the ball a little bit, but I like to be a playmaker,” Mayo said. “I like to try to take what the defense gives you and not just concentrate on scoring the ball. Find other guys.
“Just try to play the game the right way.”
His coach recognizes that Mayo has made major strides. The stats reflect it, too, if you dig deeper than points per game.