Mayo, Love, Westbrook: Who says they aren't ready?
With former UCLA and USC stars O.J. Mayo, Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook going within the first five picks of last spring’s NBA draft, let’s see how they handled their first preseason:
Chosen No. 3 by Minnesota and traded to Memphis, he was the Grizzlies’ starting shooting guard, averaging 15.8 points in 29.8 minutes (making him second in scoring behind Rudy Gay) and shooting a very-respectable-for-a-rookie 46% and 39% on three-pointers. If O.J. goes on to become a good three-point shooter, he’ll be a star in this league and he doesn’t look bad, now.
Taken at No. 5 by Memphis and sent to Minnesota in the Mayo deal, he’s now the Timberwolves’ backup power forward behind Mark Madsen. If that doesn’t sound impressive, Love is expected to move into the starting lineup before long. Love is still listed at 6-10, as he was at UCLA, but was measured at 6-7 3/4 in pre-draft camp and faces bigger, more athletic players in the post. Nevertheless, he looked like he was figuring things out in the preseason, averaging 8.5 points and 6.0 rebounds in 21.3 minutes, shooting 46%. The Timberwolves’ problem is they also have an undersized center, Al Jefferson (listed at 6-10, measured at 6-8 ½ at the 2004 pre-draft camp) and that’s a lot of little big men.
Oklahoma City GM Sam Presti tried to trade down to get the athletic Westbrook but couldn’t get an offer he liked and took him at No. 4. Westbrook won’t turn 20 until Nov. 12 and looked young indeed, shooting 29% in the team's first six exhibitions, but he broke out Wednesday night against the Suns, going 7-13 from the floor and scoring 22 points.
-- Mark Heisler
|Photo left: Minnesota Timberwolves' Kevin Love. Credit: Frank Gunn /Associated Press / The Canadian Press|
Photo center: Oklahoma City Thunder's Russell Westbrook. Credit: Paul Ruhter / Billings Gazette
Photo right: Memphis Grizzlies' O.J. Mayo. Credit: Mark Weber / Associated Press