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Necessary Development – Eric Maynor

Necessary Development – Eric Maynor

Eric Maynor shootsNathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

If I asked you what rookie point guard, in this phenomenal rookie class of point guards, had the best assist-to-turnover ratio, who would you guess? If I then went on to tell you that it wasn’t even CLOSE, that one player just ran away with it, would that make you picture only a handful of possible candidates?

Darren Collison? Ty Lawson? Brandon Jennings?

Nope. Try, Eric Maynor.

And it wasn’t even close. The closest rookie point guard in assist-to-turnover ratio behind Maynor’s 3.13 stat is Denver’s Ty Lawson at 2.48. And before you say, well Lawson got a ton more minutes than Maynor did so he had more opportunities for turnovers (wouldn’t the same be said for assists, too? I digress…), you need to understand that Lawson only averaged 5 more minutes a game than Maynor.

And Lawson posted 63 fewer assists than the Thunder’s reserve point guard despite playing those 5 extra minutes a game. In fact of all the rookies to average 3+ assists a game, Eric Maynor was the only one who didn’t average 20+ minutes, which is probably why is Assists-Per-48-Minutes projection was tops and, honestly, a little staggering: 10.1 AP48M, just edging Darren Collison’s 9.8 AP48M.

It’s okay, I was shocked, too. But perhaps the more telling indication of Maynor’s surprisingly concise and effective style of managing the game is that ever since his arrival, he never really gave us a reason to be surprised at the reality that he could play at a high level as a floor general.

Eric Maynor – 4.7 points, 3.3 assists to only 1.05 turnovers, 1.6 rebounds, 41.8 FG%, 31% 3PT and 72.2 FT% in 15.7 minutes

Playoffs – 3.7 points, 1.5 assists to .83 turnovers,  1.5 rebounds, 30.0 FG%, 16.7 3PT% and 81.8 FT% in 12.7 minutes

This is lost on a lot of people now, but before the Thunder acquired Eric Maynor Russell Westbrook was in a tail-spin. For an especially troubling eight game stretch before Maynor’s first appearance with the Thunder on December 23rd, Westbrook had really struggled with reckless turnovers and poor passing to the point that there were quite a few grumblings about if the “old Westbrook” was really the true one despite his stellar start to the year.

In those  eight straight games, Westbrook only posted one game with 8 or more assists once (against the Lakers, see, forever tied to the Lakers) but had more turnovers than assists twice.

In the Phoenix game on December 23rd, Westbrook tallied 7 assists to a glaring 5 turnovers. What did Maynor do on his very first game with the Thunder?

5 assists, 1 turnover.

Now take a look at Westbrook’s next five games…

6 assists, 0 turnovers
10 assists, 2 turnovers
10 assists, 2 turnovers
10 assists, 4 turnovers
13 assists, 0 turnovers

Get the picture?

If for no other reason, the Thunder and Russell Westbrook can thank Maynor for contributing because you may call it coincidence or a fluke, but I have a very hard time denying the fact that the Thunder finally acquiring a solid, steady and incredibly talented backup point guard not only brought stability to their roster, but challenged their starting point guard to pick up his game and focus in both practice and games.

But that’s not the whole story. Perhaps most promising of all is that Maynor played better and better after the trade to Oklahoma City and seemed to really peak as a player in the last month of the regular season, where he averaged 6.3 points, 4.5 assists to only .80 turnovers, grabbed 2 rebounds, shot 46.3 FG% and a very impressive and exciting 44.4% from 3PT land in only 18.0 minutes a game.

Translation: I don’t care who he’s playing against (even though Maynor had some huge moments throughout the year that saw him take and make huge shots against starters and playoff contenders; I’m thinking specifically his dagger three that he hit against the Mavs to clinch the Thunder a playoff spot), a rookie point guard he posts better than a 4.5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in his last month in only 18 minutes a night is executing about as well as a point guard can.

And that’s what is so promising about Eric Maynor as a floor general; he just gets it done and puts his teammates in a position to do the same.

Next Step: Honestly, if Maynor can keep up his amazing execution abilities and capacity to control the flow and pace of the offense while still limiting his turnovers, then his ability to improve his 3 PT shooting and overall scoring impact would be icing on the cake because when Maynor comes into the ball game, either by rotation or necessity, he usually holds his own.

Obviously if he could raise his 3PT% into the upper 30’s or lower 40’s, I’d be ecstatic as the second unit would have two 3 PT shooters (if Harden stays on the bench) who could spread the floor and it would also force opposing defenses to respect Maynor’s shot and play him close, allowing him to blow by them and penetrate more which he excels at as his excellent court vision usually finds an open teammate or he unveils that sweet floater.

Mostly though, I’d like Maynor to improve his defensive abilities. By no means was he terrible as a defender, but his basketball IQ and quick hands should give opposing point guards (especially other reserves) fits and would give him the opportunity to run in transition and play with an open floor ahead of him, which he excels at.

Projection for the Opening Tip:  Obviously Maynor will continue his role as the team’s backup point guard and continue playing between 17-20 minutes a game but I absolutely expect his numbers to improve after having an actual training camp with his team and simply improving in year two.

I’m thinking something along the lines of 6.5 points, 4.8 assists to 1.2 turnovers, 2 rebounds, .75 steals with 44.0 FG%, 38.9 3PT% and 79.0 FT%.

In summary, I think Maynor continues carving up opposing second units and will make an even bigger impact next year as not just a stabilizing force for this entire team, but a significant force on both sides of the ball as well.

And that’s why I dub him the Surgeon General of Execution.

Everyone deserves a cool nickname if they can pull off a 3-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in a single season.