OJ Mayo is Now a Bench Player

Repeat that to yourself. OJ Mayo is now a bench player.

Your first thought was probably one of surprise, confusion or perhaps it was just the all-too-typical “What the heck, Grizzlies?” Fair enough. But hey, it worked Wednesday night, or at the very least, it didn’t hurt.

Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins moved Mayo out of the starting lineup and onto the bench before Memphis’ easy 105-84 win over the Pistons, replacing him with rookie Xavier Henry. Hollins made the move in an effort to deepen the bench and add offensive production to a unit that’s otherwise been relatively weak this season.

Mayo, who came off the bench Saturday against the Heat for being late to shootaround, is a scorer first and foremost. Hollins’ idea was by putting Mayo in with the second unit, it will make it more difficult for defenses to key in on what’s usually just one or two credible offensive threats (usually just Darrell Arthur) on the floor.

It worked to Hollins’ pleasure against the Pistons, as the Grizzlies reeled off a season-high 41 bench points, including nine from Mayo. The bench had 37 against the Heat on Saturday.

“We got the win, and we had 41 points off the bench,” Hollins said. “I think it played out the way that I hoped it would play out. We have a lot of guys that can play.”

Maybe even too many guys who can play — in the starting lineup, that is. Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph are each players who need the ball in their hands to be effective. And with the Grizzlies often running their offense through Marc Gasol in the high post, Mayo sometimes doesn’t receive the offensive involvement his style of play commands.

But he’s also very undersized for an NBA shooting guard, compared to Henry, who’s listed at 6-foot-6. Mayo (6-4) and point guard Mike Conley (6-1) make up one of the more undersized starting backcourts in the league, which often results in opposing shooting guards having big nights against the Grizzlies. See below:

Nov. 3: Golden State’s Monta Ellis had 39.
Nov. 10: Dallas’ Jason Terry had 25.
Nov. 16: Portland’s Wesley Matthews had 30.
Nov. 19: Washington’s Kirk Hinrich and Gilbert Arenas combined for 46.

That’s just a 16-day period, which included four games where opposing shooting guards had big, big games while Mayo was in the starting lineup.

“It worked out pretty well,” Mayo said of his new role off the bench. “Different. But, you know, I’ve just gotta play through it.”

Written by Brandon Harris

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