Assuming the Bulls are going to let the Rockets keep Asik and his 24 million dollar contract, they’re gonna have a few decisions to make regarding this year’s free agent crop. With a focus on the shooting guard position, it’s time to trigger the OJ Mayo vs. Nick Young vs. Courtney Lee debate.
I’ll start off with the guy who I believe should be number one on the Bulls list: OJ Mayo. Please, before you close this tab, hear me out. Mayo is truly one of the most under-appreciated players in the league, evident in the fact that the Grizzlies are going to let him walk for absolutely nothing.
Here’s the thing with OJ. He’ll never be the god that people were expecting him to be coming out of college, but you don’t go from
averaging 17 points a game efficiently for two years to flat-out declining in every facet of the game for no reason. The truth is Mayo deserves better than to be coming off the bench behind Tony Allen while seeing his minutes decline constantly. Still, despite having “issues” with his coach, he took it like a man and tried to his job. It’s only natural that his game declined after all of that. Not everyone can take on the James Harden role and succeed. Even though he’s made his fair share of bone-headed plays in the past year, I still believe the Mayo of 2009 is in there somewhere.
While Mayo’s offensive game has been regressing, he’s made great strides on the other side of the ball. He was a shorter version of Kyle Korver as a rookie defender, but now he’s turned himself in to an average defender, at the very least. Mayo was an easy scapegoat to the fact that the Grizzlies two star players (Z-bo and Rudy Gay) have serious chemistry issues and because of that, his value has dropped immensely.
On to the next one: Although I believe Nick Young should be the Bulls second option in free agency, chances are he doesn’t fit the “winning culture” the front office is trying to build. In short, he likes to shoot. And he likes to shoot a lot.
I’ll start off by saying this: I’m not a huge fan of Nick Young. He doesn’t have the best basketball IQ, he’s never met a shot he doesn’t like and aside from scoring, he doesn’t do anything particularly well. His man defense is pretty good, but he has no concept of team defense, although that might be due to the fact that he’s spent the majority of his career in a Wizard’s uniform, and the rest of it with Vinny Del Negro.
Obviously, there’s a lot of room for improvement there. If there’s one thing Young can do well though, it’s fill up the score sheet. He can get a shot off from anywhere on the floor. I do believe Nick Young will grow and in time he’ll be a great scoring punch for a contender one day, but what matters to the Bulls is how far off that one day is.
Now, let’s put these two up against each other.
Everyone knows that both Mayo and Young have a knack for scoring, especially when they’re put in the right situation. The problem is, none of these guys are in the right situation.
While Nick Young is a much better jump shooter than Mayo, or really anyone in the league, he’s one of the worst and most unwilling passers in the league. OJ Mayo’s assist rate of 15 almost triple’s Nick Young’s. Young is also one of the worst rebounders in the league, despite his athleticism and height.
Nick Young does a great job creating for himself but he has zero ability to create for others, aside from allowing others to tip in the rebounds off his missed shots. Mayo doesn’t create for himself quite as well, but he’s decent at getting other guys open looks as well.
Here’s the most peculiar similarity between the two: They both think their value is higher than what it is. That’s what makes the Bulls lucky. It’s likely that the Celtics passed on him because he would be unwilling to take the MLE, and while this may still be the case for
both players, Chicago needs to pounce as these two learn that their value in the league is not as high as they think it is. Last year, Young opted to return to the Wizards for this very same reason.
And then there’s Courtney Lee. The polar opposite of these two players, Lee has been a steady performer for the majority of his career. He can shoot the lights out, especially from the corner three pocket, he plays defense, he’s smart and he knows his limitations. Lee is athletic and he has room to grow, going into his fourth year in the NBA.
While Lee would be an asset to the team, he doesn’t have nearly the offensive capabilities of Nick Young or OJ Mayo.
Essentially, Courtney Lee is a low-risk, low-reward player that will probably accept the mid-level from the Bulls. While I don’t think he’s worth it, Chicago will probably settle for him because he’s the kind of player the front office would love.
If I’m the Bulls this is what I do: At first, I offer OJ Mayo the mid-level exception. If he doesn’t take it, I try to sign and trade him to the Grizzlies for CJ Watson and Kyle Korver. That gives the Grizzlies a reliable back-up point guard as well as outside shooting, something they desperately need. It also gives OJ Mayo closer to 7 million per-year, which is what he’s reportedly looking for.
If that still doesn’t work, I offer Nick Young the mid-level exception, and he can take it or leave it. If the Bulls somehow strike out on both of these players, that’s when they should look at Courtney Lee, a pretty great third option to be honest.