Written by Matt Moore
Rook Check takes a look at the progress of NBA Rookies throughout the season.
O.J. Mayo is close to walking on the sun at this point.
His professional career is seven games old, and he's rapidly approaching "terrifying scorer" status. Tonight he set a new career high with 31 points to go with eight rebounds and three assists. Most notable about this performance was the fact that when he started? Well, there was no way to stop him. At all.
Mayo opened up 4-of-5 from the arc with 26 points in the first half. He had 20 in the first quarter before coach Marc Iavaroni decided that the best thing to do with his star 21-year-old with fresh legs and an incredible scoring streak was to -- of course -- sit him for a long stretch to start the second. Sigh.
Whether it was the magic or Mayo's rhythm, something was broken, and Mayo only scored 11 for the remainder of the game in a double-digit loss to the Nuggets. But Mayo has shown a remarkable combination of scoring instincts and sharp athleticism in his rookie start, and 31 points is nothing to sneeze at.
Perhaps best of all is that many of his limitations and mistakes are things he can work to fix. His late-drive explosiveness can be developed with conditioning. Eventually he'll start to understand that there's a reason teams keep giving him the baseline, praying he'll drive into their trap. And his body control will improve. Perhaps best of all, the coaching staff hasn't tried to develop him as a point guard, which has allowed him to do the things he's best at.
If the first seven games are any indication, Mayo's ceiling may be higher than anyone thought.