Things were so much more simple way back in the summer of 2008.
I was in my 20s.
The Wolves had only sucked for two years in a row instead of five.
George W. Bush was still President.
But getting back to the Wolves, they sucked. Badly. Hopelessly bad. They needed more than just better players. What they needed was a franchise face. Someone to resurrect this one perennial playoff team. They had Al Jefferson to work the post. They needed a dynamic guard to carry the outside scoring and to also carry the spirit of the fan base. The draft was approaching. They needed OJ Mayo. Everything about Mayo looked good. I mean, hell, for a while when he was in high school the experts all compared him to LeBron. We could use a LeBron here in Minnesota. Even his name, OJ Mayo, sounded like the name of a star. Nothing ever goes right for the Wolves but on draft night that year things did go right…for once. David Stern got up and said his name and for a few hours we had OJ Mayo. The savior was coming North.
We Wolves faithful went to sleep that night (if one could manage to overcome the excitement and actually fall asleep) with visions of OJ Mayo taking over Target Center the way KG did not so long ago.
Then we woke to text messages from our Dads saying “Did McHale really just do that?” Were our Dads not happy with the Mayo pick? Why would he not want Mayo? Surely, we didn’t do something catastrophic like trade Mayo for anyone other than say, LeBron.
Then we flew to the computer and in a few clicks came across the headline “Wolves Deal Mayo to Memphis in Midnight Blockbuster.” LeBron did not play for Memphis.
Rage. Hysteria. Crushing disappointment. I’m not ashamed to admit it. I’m a rube. I felt cheated. I ripped off an email to the T-Wolves ticket rep who I had been talking to about potentially purchasing season tickets with a summation of “Go F--- Yourself!”
I remember thinking WTF? And that was before people really started using the abbreviation WTF. It looked cheap and stupid, as if we had given away our future franchise leader in order to shed some ugly contracts that McHale was responsible for in the first place.
The line from McHale and Co. at the time was that Mayo was a low upside guard with limited athletic ability. Essentially, players like him are a dime a dozen. On the other hand, we were told that Kevin Love possessed a highly unique skill set. He could rebound on a truly elite level and pass as well as any big in the league. OMGod, how they raved about his outlet passing. Love’s basketball IQ and intangibles would clearly make him the better pick. That’s what the guy who traded Brandon Roy for Randy Foye said.
To a disenfranchised fanbase, it all sounded like an elaborate ruse to clear Marko Jaric’s horrendous contract off the books. McHale had been so wrong so many times before, where did he get the nerve to think he was capable of outsmarting another league executive? The fact that the only NBA starter-worthy player on the team, Al Jefferson, happened to play the same position as Love only added to the vitriol.
Nothing happened during year one to change anyone’s mind. Mayo got off to a hot start. It looked then like he was ascending to stardom before our eyes.
Flash forward three seasons and McHale’s prophecy is basically coming true exactly as he said it would. Instead of ascending to stardom it appears Mayo was only hitting that low ceiling McHale had projected. Kevin Love, on the other hand, is a monster. OJ Mayo is a back up. There isn’t a GM in the league who would choose Mayo over Love right now. That’s pretty wild. It's wild because the guy who let Chauncey Billups walk while signing Troy Hudson to a long term deal called it.
Compare the numbers this season.
Kevin Love – 20.1 points, 15.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists on 43% shooting (41% on 3 pts)
OJ Mayo – 11.9 points, 2.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists on 39% shooting (37% on 3 pts)
It's not even close.
Of course, the next chapter of this book could swing back around again. And then back the other way once more. But for now it's lopsided. For as much as I ripped the guy who orchestrated an illegal contract with Joe Smith, got caught, fined up the ass, had draft picks taken away and then signed Joe Smith again a couple years later, I can certainly be man enough to admit that, in this instance, I was wrong and he was totally right.