Where Have You Gone, Eric Maynor?

Monday, January 21st 2013, 5:32 pm
By: News 9

There were many interesting numbers to come out of Oklahoma City's 117-97 blowout win over the Denver Nuggets last Wednesday night.

Twelve players played at least nine minutes; all 12 players that saw action scored; Kevin Durant had five steals; Kevin Martin scored 20 points on 12 shots.

The most telling number, though, was a big, fat zero; the number of minutes Eric Maynor played.

Not only did Maynor not see the court, he was the only active player on the roster to not receive playing time. It was a weird situation that has manifested itself quite often since the Christmas Day loss to Miami.

Before that game, Maynor had averaged 12.8 minutes a game in the Thunder's first 26 games of the season. While Maynor didn't perform poorly, he was nothing like the Maynor Thunder fans had grown accustomed to during the 2010-11 season. It's unclear if tearing his ACL last season caused him to play timidly or prevented him from doing some of the things that made him such a great backup to Russell Westbrook two seasons ago.

So far this season, Maynor is shooting a woeful 29.7 percent from the field, a career low. Two years ago, he hit 40 percent of his shots—not great, but miles ahead of where he is today.

Since the Miami game, Maynor has appeared in exactly five games for a total of 20 minutes. Over the course of the past 15 games, Maynor has averaged 1.3 minutes per game, and hasn't played in five consecutive contests, including Sunday's loss at Denver.

Meanwhile, the benefactor of Maynor's mysterious absence has been second-year guard Reggie Jackson. Before Christmas, while Maynor was getting the majority of the backup point guard minutes, Jackson was averaging a paltry 3.8 minutes per game, including a 19-minute performance against Charlotte on Nov. 26 and a 25 minute performance against Minnesota on Dec. 20.

Now, Jackson is averaging 12.9 minutes per game and has obviously taken a firm grasp of the backup point guard role, for now.

Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks explained his reasoning for why he didn't play Maynor against the Nuggets last week after the game.

"I was going to put him in, but I wanted to give Reggie some more minutes," Brooks said. "It was about the five- or six-minute mark that I was going to make that decision. It's hard to play 13 guys. I wanted to see the other young guys play. I know what Eric does. And he's been very professional in a tough situation. He wants to be out there and playing with our guys. But he still works and he's still waiting for an opportunity. And usually it comes around if you just keep working and staying positive and he has."

The strange thing about the move is that Maynor wasn't completely ineffective during his playing time before Christmas. Plus-minus has to be taken with a grain of salt, but overall, in the first 26 games of OKC's season, Maynor was a plus-60, while Jackson was a minus-19. If it wasn't a change due to effectiveness, or lack thereof, then what's it all about?

The popular theory is the Thunder will be looking to ship Maynor off before the Feb. 21 trade deadline. It makes sense, since Maynor is in the last year of his contract, and will be a restricted free agent after the season. During the James Harden contract negotiations, Thunder general manager Sam Presti made it clear the Thunder wasn't going to be making an effort to re-sign Maynor before the Oct. 31 deadline, allowing Maynor to reach restricted free agent status this summer. Since OKC most likely won't be bringing Maynor back, it only makes sense to get something in return for him rather than simply letting him walk.

In reality, it's likely Scott Brooks isn't playing Maynor so he can stay healthy and remain a valuable trade piece. However, if you want to trade a player that's coming off a huge injury such as an ACL tear, it seems like the sensible thing would be to play him so you can prove to potential suitors he's completely healthy.

No matter what happens with Maynor, it's pretty clear he won't be with the Thunder for much longer or, at the very least, not with the team next season.

After his great season in 2010-11, it's an unfortunate end for the former VCU star, but this is the NBA and the Thunder is doing all it can to win an NBA championship. "Team Is One" only goes so far.