Options on the Wing: Mayo, Lee, Delfino, and Green

Let’s take some time off from talking about Roy Hibbert and discuss four wing players that the Pacers are reported to be interested in: O.J. Mayo, Courtney Lee, Carlos Delfino, and Gerald Green. With Jamal Crawford and Nick Young signing with teams in the past couple of days, it seems like the free agent wing the Pacers have been wanting to sign will be one of these four players. I want to talk a little about their games and how they’d fit with the Pacers. The profiles are done in descending order of how much it would cost to sign each player.

O.J. Mayo – SG – 6’4″, 210 lb., 24 years old

His Game: There are a lot of misperceptions floating around about O.J. Mayo and the way he plays basketball. Because of his high-profile high school career, high draft position, and flirtation with the point guard position, many people assume that Mayo is a ball-dominant, creative two-guard in the mold of Dwayne Wade and Kobe Bryant. This is not true. As Chris Herrington points out in this fantastic overview of Mayo’s game, his playing style and career numbers are far more in line with sweet-shooting scorers like Ray Allen, Ben Gordon, and Kevin Martin. The main take away from this comparison is that while Mayo is pretty good at creating his own shot – he was assisted on 51.3% of his baskets last year, 16th among SG’s – he’s not very good at creating for others.

He’s been given plenty of opportunities as a creator, and he gives it a decent effort, but it’s worth noting that while he has decent looking assist numbers (3.4/36min), he also turns the ball over fairly frequently. Mayo is also not a great player going to the basket. He takes about 21% of his shots at the rim and does not finish particularly well (56.6%). Defensively Mayo struggles, though it’s not for a lack of effort. Mayo simply lacks the size, length, and elite athleticism to be more than an average defender. His defensive struggles are the primary reason he’s been coming off the bench in favor of Tony Allen for the last 2 seasons. There are 2 other factors worth noting: 1. Mayo has struggled coming off the bench the past 2 seasons. 2. He seems to have a rocky relationship with his coach, Lionel Hollins.

The Fit: The Pacers are looking for a player who can create their own shot against good defense and carry the load offensively off the bench. Mayo fits the bill in both instances. He also represents a significant talent increase over any player he’d be replacing. He would fit well into the Pacers egalitarian approach where any of 6 or 7 players could be the best guy on any given night. However, I would find it hard to spend big money on a guy who’s spent 2 years struggling in the role you’re paying him to fulfill. One thing to consider is that Lionel Hollins is considered to be a fairly old-school, hard-nosed coach. We’ve seen players who wilted under this type of coach (but remember, we’re not talking about Roy Hibbert today) thrive under the uber-positivism of Frank Vogel.

Overall Take: Mayo is an expensive proposition (He’s reportedly not returning any phone calls from teams not willing to offer more than the full mid-level exception which starts at $5 million), but I would classify him as medium risk and high reward. The worst thing you’re going to get if you sign Mayo is an overpaid, slightly above average basketball player. There’s potential, however, for much more. Neil Paine of Basketball reference recently pegged Mayo as one of 6 free agents who are statistically poised for a breakout season. There’s a chance that a change of scenery, coaching voices, and teammates would propel Mayo toward the stardom he seemed destined for after his first couple years in the league.

Note: Mayo also had a famous ABCD camp battle with Lance Stephenson back in ’05.

Courtney Lee – SG – 6’5″, 200 lb., 26 years old

His Game: Lee has a very well-rounded game. To begin, he’s a very good shooter.  He’s shot above 40% from the 3 point line 3 out his 4 seasons in the NBA while shooting 2.9 3′s a game over the course of his career. In addition to his outside game, Lee is pretty effective going to the basket. He gets to the rim at the same rate as Mayo (21%) but he finishes more effectively (62%). One thing to note is that Lee is assisted on about 10% more of his rim baskets than Mayo. This gives us the portrait of Lee as someone who gets to the basket by cutting off the ball in addition to taking his man off the dribble. Lee does not create shots for other players, but he also does not stop the ball offensively.

He generally plays within the context of the offense and is known as a guy with a high basketball IQ. Defensively, Lee is a very good player. He is known as a player with a passion for the defensive end of the floor. He is quick enough to guard PG’s, but has also had success guarding bigger players: he made Kobe Bryant work very hard while guarding him in the 2009 finals.

The Fit: While Lee is a very good basketball player, he is not the high-volume scorer the Pacers are reportedly looking for off the bench. Like Mayo, however, he definitely represents a talent upgrade over whomever he replaces. Lee reminds me quite a bit of George Hill – a consistently above-average player who works hard on both ends, takes what’s given to him, and makes relatively few mistakes.

Overall Take: Lee is a good basketball player. He’s a low-risk, medium-reward signing. He doesn’t have the breakout potential of OJ Mayo, but he’s also likely not quite as expensive. He is a guy you will never regret having on your team. He’s also an Indiana native and a proven playoff contributor.

(Note: There is a definite drop-off in price, role, and expectations between Mayo and Lee and Delfino and Green. Mayo and Lee are going to need 25+ minutes each night and $5+ million a year. These next two guys won’t.)

Carlos Delfino – SG/SF – 6’6″, 230 lb., 29 years old

His Game: Delfino is, in many ways, the perfect wing for “smashmouth” basketball. He’s a big, physical player who likes to play defense and rebounds incredibly well.  Offensively, he doesn’t give you much, but he doesn’t hurt you at all either. For Pacer fans, it would be good to think of him as a more jump-shot oriented, less ball-stopping version of Dahntay Jones. Pretty much all Delfino does on offense is shoot 3 pointers. In fact, last year 52% of his shots were from behind the arc.

He has very little game inside the arc, however, and is a poor finisher at the rim (56.6%). He does handle the ball well for a big 2 guard, but he lacks the explosiveness to use this ability to do much other than bring the ball up the court occasionally.  He is a good passer who makes good decisions and few mistakes, but no one would mistake him for a great creator or a guy who could initiate the offense. Defensively, Delfino is solid. He uses his big body and strength well to make up for his lack of great athleticism.

The Fit: Like I said, Delfino basically gives you much of the same things Dahntay Jones does, just at a slightly higher level. Delfino’s sweet spot is the corner 3 point shot, and that seems to be one that is available frequently in the Pacers’ offense.

Overall Take: Delfino is not the scorer that the Pacers are looking for, has almost no upside, and only provides a slight upgrade over the incumbent wing players. He is, however, a tough guy who plays good, solid basketball. However, I don’t know that I see the point in signing Delfino to take away valuable developmental minutes from guys like Stephenson and Johnson, especially if Dahntay Jones remains on the roster.

Gerald Green – SF – 6’8″, 200lb, 26 years old

His Game: Before I tell you about Gerald Green, you should read this. If you followed instructions, then you know that Gerald Green is an uber-talented former first-round pick and slam dunk champion who’s had a rough path through the nether-regions of professional basketball while trying to resurrect his dream of playing in the NBA. Looking at Green’s stats and game, two things become readily apparent: 1. He’s not afraid to shoot, and 2. He doesn’t create his own shot.

This is not usually a good combination. Last season, Green put up close to 15 shots each 36 minutes he played. While that doesn’t sound like a lot, that’s nearly the same rate at which OJ Mayo shoots the ball.  He has a similar usage rate to Mayo also.  The major difference between the two players is that Green was assisted on 67.5% of his buckets last year, while Mayo was only assisted on 51%.

While Green cannot create his own shot, he is a good shooter when a shot is created for him. He had the highest true shooting percentage (57.4) and effective field goal percentage (54.8) of all four players. Green also is a fantastic finisher at the rim (70.7%), but, again, he doesn’t get there on his own – he was assisted on 70% of his makes at the rim. Defensively, he’s just figuring things out. Avery Johnson, his coach with the Nets last season, had this to say about his defense, “He’ll make a mistake every now and then, but he competes on defense.” Green has Paul George level length and athleticism, so the ceiling is pretty high defensively.

The Fit: At first glance, grabbing a guy like Green who resurrected his career by making open shots created by Deron Williams (Green played over half his minutes with Williams last season) wouldn’t seem to make a ton of since for the Pacers. However, I actually feel like he’s a pretty good fit with the second unit, especially if that unit is going to feature Lance Stephenson. Stephenson, though he’s an unfinished product, is a guy who seems focused on creating shots for his teammates. Green is a guy who would thrive taking advantage of these shots. The Pacers’ second unit also needs another player who’s not bashful about shooting as only Tyler Hansbrough seems to really look to score when the second unit is together. Also, Green’s high school coach believes that Green thrives when the people around him believe in him, and Frank Vogel is still the coach of the Pacers.

Overall Take: Assuming Green can be gotten for a reasonable price, he’d be a very low-risk, high-reward acquisition. The potential that made him a top 20 pick coming out of high school is still there, and he seems to be developing the maturity to harness it. If Green can reach his considerable ceiling, he has starter level talent.

Ranking the Deals/Players

Upside: Mayo, Green, Lee, Delfino

Risk Level (from high to low): Green, Mayo,  Lee, Delfino

Current Talent: Mayo, Lee, Delfino, Green

I’d be happy with any of these players on the Pacers, though I’d be less excited about Delfino than the others. All four guys have skills that would help the Pacers and are likely to come at different prices. This is a situation where beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and it really depends upon how much Pritchard and Walsh want to spend and gamble.

Tags: 2012 Free Agency

  • Jesse

    A few things I’m not clear on:

    I thought Mayo was regarded as an elite athlete coming out of USC. What happened there? Also, in the description, Courtney Lee sounds like a more capable offensive player.

    After looking at the Mayo link, it seems like Lee is already better at what (shooting) Mayo may become. I haven’t really watched either play though.

    The Gerald Green idea is intriguing to me because I think we need someone who can spell Granger and George at the 3 more than we need another shooting guard.

  • Jeremy Comstock

    Jesse, there’s a big difference in the roles Lee and Mayo play. Mayo’s usually the 1st or 2nd option when he’s on the floor, Lee’s usually the 4th or 5th. Both guys are very good shooters.

  • Ian

    I’m surprised no one mentions that Lee is an Indianapolis native…

    I think you summarized things here pretty well. Mayo is 24 so the only one likely to show significant improvemnet. With the others its more ‘what you see is what you get’ though Green appears to be a late bloomer. Lee is a nice player but at best he’s essentially a solid guy.

    As you mentioned its been commonly said that Mayo doesn’t like coming off the bench and I tihnk they Pacers would have to be very assured that he’d be willing to do that for them unless they plan on trading Granger (of which I have seen no sign).

  • Ronal Eugene is Right!!

    How likely is it that the Pacers don’t sign anyone and see how Lance handles the role at the beginning of the season? I’m not sure why we keep Lance and Johnson if we are going to sign a free agent to take their role. Lance has shown flashes and if he can put a few games together like the finale against the Bulls then it seems like he’d be an upgrade over Barbosa. If this doesn’t work out could the Pacers just absorb a contract like they did last season to fill the void? I’m not sure how it works since they’ll only have the MLE after signing Hibbert.

  • Mike

    REIR – I agree. This is why all this discussion is essentially worthless because who knows what the Pacers are going to do. Who saw the Plumlee pick leading up to the draft? I think I remember his name being mentioned one time.

    With the C’s chasing Lee, it’s almost a guarantee that we’d have to overpay to get him.

  • Donald

    I’d be happy with not carlos delfino; D. Jones doesn’t get enough credit for not being terrible.

    I’ve liked courtney lee since he was a surprise contributor in Orlando; I never understood why Jameer Nelson didn’t go, and Rafer and Courtney didn’t stay. OJ Mayo is a curious case, and I think he could be a player if he got out of Memphis. Pair him with players who can cover his defensive lapses, and support him with intellegent coaching and I think he could blossom. Gerald Green might be my favorite option because he sounds like he gets it(now), could be cheaper than some other options, and has physical tools.

    In the heat series what I thought we needed was another big wing player. Danny and Paul are always going to have trouble guarding Lebron and Dwayne. They do it very well, but they’re both only human. Gerald Green has the right size to guard both guys for a few minutes while danny or paul get a blow.

  • AMFinocchi

    I think Delfino is better than what you’ve written. He is the big scoring machine in the Argentinian National Team coming off the bench (he used to be behind Ginobili and Nocioni, but with Nocioni’s injries, he will probably be the starter this olimpic). And he is waaaaay better than Dahntay Jones. He made Kobe look average last season, and he won’t do stupid mistakes in crucial moments (Dahntay @ Miami). He’s not explosive as Barbosa, but he’s smarter and select better his shots (Delfino can do 3 of 6, while Barbosa usually do 2 of 8). I think he is really under-rated here.
    Lee won’t choose Indiana over Boston (at least, not now), Mayo won’t come to be a bench player, and, let’s be honest, how much potential can develop Green that hasn’t develop yet?

  • Aaron

    The Nets-Magic-Cavs need a fourth team to come in and take MarShon Brooks…probably for a first round pick.

    I’d do that in a heartbeat. Then no need to over pay Mayo/Lee and can use that money for a backup PF.

    MarShon would mean that Lance is expendable. I want to see Lance to succeed, but I’ll take MarShon any day. He’s who the Pacers should have drafted last year.

  • Tom

    I’m a big lee fan. I know we probably won’t land him, but I say go after the hoosier. It’d be cool to demonstrate Indiana’s crazy talent (at least per-capita) by building a contender with some homestate guys, and I think fan interest would grow through this method too

  • Tom

    Also, AARON – I was cheering for a marshon pick last year on draft night. I’m right with you there, but it would have cost us Hill. And I still think Hill is going to impress more and more as he settles into his starting spot. So we’ll just have to wait and see.

  • Dwight Meredith
  • Realist

    +1 for Dahntay Jones not being terrible. I like him.

  • gregor t.

    I just think Courtney Lee is the best fit here. The Pacers are a defensive-minded team. C.Lee fits that role. The Pacers are a good 3pt shooting team. C.Lee fits that role. The Pacers are building a team with quality players that contribute on and off the court. C.Lee fits that role, too. The fact that he is a Hoosier and a proven playoff contributor is more than just a bonus. It tells me he could thrive in his role with the Pacers. He has been a winner at every level of his basketball career. He would fit perfect with the Pacers and would, definitely, help the team win.
    “Collison drives the lane. He kicks out to Lee for 3? BOOM BABY!” I can see it already.

  • DougInOz

    +1 to Dahntay not getting enough credit. Most of the time when he gets criticised for ‘doing too much’ it’s because everyone else is standing around.

    +1 also to Lee looking like a great fit.

    Also that said, Mayo could be huge. Lee or Mayo for mine (you know, cos I have a big say haha).

    Good writeup as always for 8p9s, thanks.

  • wesmont

    Yet another well written and very informative article.You guys are must read material.Thanks again

  • gregor t.

    Dahntay Jones has been nothing but a good Pro and a good Pacer. If he doesn’t find a role with the Pacers going forward, i hope he lands with a winner. He deserves it.