Exactly .081% of the NBA world batted an eye when the Washington Wizards acted fast on the first day of free agency and locked up Eric Maynor to a 2 year/$4 million contract. Move the decimal place a couple spots over to the left and that would be the value of those who thought the move would actually make a legitimate difference in the Wizards’ elusive pursuit of an Eastern Conference playoff bid. However, here in the District, expectations are fairly high for a position that has seen too much importance over the last few years. With John Wall battling various injuries during his three year stint in the NBA, Washington’s backup point guard has often been called upon to produce for large stretches, including a 33 game stretch last season that most fans have had surgically removed from memory. Secretly effective veteran AJ Price is out of town and it’s up to Maynor to keep the ship in line for the 12-15 minutes each game that Wall is catching a breath (or even an extended period of time if another injury crops up). Maynor is familiar with the area, having played college ball just down I-95 at VCU, and even has a legendary NCAA tournament win to his credit when his 11-seeded Rams toppled mighty Duke in the first round. He was drafted in the first round of the NBA Draft by the Utah Jazz and held the banner as a prototypical pure point guard whose floor general instincts would run an offense effectively. Four teams and a torn ACL later, Maynor’s career has been less impactful than expected. But he showed flashes of his old self with Portland last season and his knee is finally healthy again. So what can we expect in his inaugural season in red, white, and blue? And what do we need to see to make this year a success?
Despite whatever Maynor’s strengths may be as the steady hand of an offense, he has to actually perform better on that end of the floor to generate positive results for his team. He’s never posted an Effective FG% or True Shooting % higher than 50 in his career and his Offensive Rating-Defensive Rating split was a -16 last year (96-112). He turned the ball over on 20% of his possessions last year, a number that has increased steadily throughout his career but will have to come down if he’s to spell Wall without any hiccups in the Wizards offense. His PER finished in single digits for the second straight year, and you know that Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton are not going to be eager to share that distinction with any other offensive stalwarts like Maynor. Two things going in Maynor’s favor are that many people say it takes two years to truly recover from reconstructive knee surgery and his number did improve across the board after the midseason trade to Portland. But he must build on that this year because Washington will undoubtedly need him to play some crucial minutes.
Maynor was never going to test off the charts athletically and his knee problems have only heightened his inability to stay in front of his opponent on the defensive end. With the point guards that this league has to offer, even backups each night will be a test for Maynor. His Defensive Rating was already covered above but if it needs to be driven home one more time; no, allowing 112 points per 100 possessions is NOT a good number. In addition, his 0.2 Defensive Win Shares and 0.8 steals per 36 minutes speak to his lack of ability to make meaningful plays when the other team has the ball. Maynor is a smart player and his high basketball IQ usually leads him to at least the right place on the court. But like many Wizards players on the perimeter, he’ll have to rely on strong interior defense to make his numbers and performance look a little better. The only other suggestion is to at least learn player tendencies and decide if he wants to give them an open look or a lane to the basket. Stopping both has not often been an option for him.
Maynor’s only real injury in his career was the torn ACL he suffered as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2011-12 which cut his season to just 9 games. That being said, it’s important for him to maintain a clean bill of health while serving as backup PG in Washington. He regained a little bit of explosiveness for the Blazers and even shot a career high 38% from deep over those final 27 games. If he keeps himself on the court and takes care of his knees the way any player has to post-major surgery, the Wizards should be in good shape when the franchise savior is on the bench.
Reading over this ‘Need to See’ piece from Eric Maynor, it feels like I’m giving him the same advice my high school coach gave me when he unceremoniously cut me from the JV team. “You’re a good player. Just work on dribbling, passing, shooting, and defense”, I was told. And although it’s not intentional to write that Maynor just needs to be a better player, it is true that he has shown flashes in several areas but consistent progression will make him a more polished member of the Wizards’ suddenly deep bench. He’s always looked the part of a great point guard, and this year he’ll have a chance to play like one.