The Milwaukee Bucks signed free agent guard O.J. Mayo on Saturday, hoping he will add some much-needed offensive punch to a roster that is searching for some after a summer of upheaval.
The Bucks agreed to terms on a three-year, $24 million contract with Mayo last week. But thanks to a series of moves that general manager John Hammond has in the works, the Bucks had to wait until Saturday to make the contract official.
The 25-year-old Mayo averaged 15.3 points for the Dallas Mavericks last season, and he should have no trouble finding shots in this new-look Bucks lineup.
Hammond executed a sign-and-trade deal with the Suns and Clippers that sent J.J. Redick to Los Angeles and Monta Ellis could soon be following Redick out the door in Milwaukee.
Ellis is reportedly set to join the Mavericks in Mayo’s place and the Bucks appeared to be moving on from the other half of their shoot-first backcourt when they signed restricted free agent point guard Jeff Teague, who played for new coach Larry Drew in Atlanta, to an offer sheet to replace Brandon Jennings.
But the Hawks matched that deal on Saturday night, leaving Milwaukee with few options for a starting point guard beyond Jennings, who has played the first four years of his career with the Bucks.
Ellis and Jennings were far and away the leaders in field goal attempts for the Bucks last season, and with neither one guaranteed to return Mayo should get plenty of opportunities to show that he is capable of carrying the scoring load for an entire season.
After spending his first four seasons with the Memphis Grizzlies, Mayo hoped to cash in big on the free-agent market last summer. But the money dried up quickly across the league, and he wound up taking a deal with the Mavericks that paid him more than $4 million last season.
He opted out of his two-year deal to test the waters once again, and for a moment it appeared that he could be stuck on the outside looking in for a second straight summer. Mayo’s name was near the top of the list of available shooting guards, a list that also included Redick and Ellis from the Bucks and Kevin Martin from the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Mayo was inundated with attention when the market opened on July 1, speaking to the Timberwolves, Clippers, Bucks and several other teams.
The Clippers pulled off a sign-and-trade that brought Redick to Los Angeles and the Wolves did the same to land Martin from Houston. With the Bucks getting nowhere in talks to bring Ellis back, Hammond shifted his sights to Mayo.
In Milwaukee, Mayo will immediately become an offensive focal point like he was in the first few months of last season in Dallas while star Dirk Nowitzki sat out with a knee injury.
Even if Jennings returns, there are few other options to generate big-time scoring on the Bucks roster. They added steady veteran point guard Luke Ridnour in a trade with the Timberwolves earlier this week, but still were looking for the kind of player who can get to the basket and score in transition.
Mayo seems to fit that bill. He shot nearly 45 percent from the field, which was the second-highest mark of his career, and showed flashes of potential to be a go-to scorer during the early part of last season while the Mavericks waited for Nowitzki’s return. He averaged 20.9 points and shot 52.9 percent from 3-point range in the first month of last season, including a 40-point game at Houston on Dec. 8.
Mayo shot a career-best 40.7 percent from 3-point range last season for the Mavericks, but his production dipped noticeably as the season wore on. Nowitzki returned to the lineup and reclaimed his spot as the Mavericks’ No. 1 option and Mayo’s opportunities, and consistency, decreased.
The Bucks have Ersan Ilyasova, who averaged more than 17 points per game, in the front court, but there are few offensive threats on the rest of the roster.
Larry Sanders emerged as one of the best defensive players in the league last season, but his offensive game is still raw. John Henson showed some promise as a rookie last year, but likely is not ready to assume a major role yet. Carlos Delfino and Zaza Pachulia have also agreed to terms on deals but are role players.
Now Hammond and Jennings have a delicate situation to navigate. Do the Bucks try to go back to the point guard who once was billed as a franchise player after going hard after his replacement?
And does Jennings look to return to the Bucks, who desperately need point guard help, or does he continue to wait for a big offer from another team and risk being left out in the cold when the free agent market settles?
If neither side wants to commit long term, a possible compromise would be Jennings accepting the $4.3 million qualifying offer on his contract, playing out the season and becoming an unrestricted free agent next season.
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