For as much as I rip on Little Mike, and as often as I call him the worst starting point in the league, I have to give props when he comes up big. I don't like to say it, but it's true: Mike Conley has been playing pretty damn good basketball lately.
So if anything can keep the Grizzlies playoff dreams alive, it's the fact that Mike Conley has looked great on the offensive end lately. Yes, I said it. Mike Conley has looked great for more than a game or two. He's put together a legitimate run of rock solid games.
Here's why Mike Conley's playing better (offense):
- Knocking down his three's again: Conley's been shooting better when he gets wide open jumpers, which he still sees regularly since he's close to the only Grizzly that a defense can cheat on (O.J. Mayo's slump might change the rules a bit).
- He's passing in the lane: This is not only causing his assists to skyrocket (and Marc's dunks) but is also giving him way more space to take his own shot. Defenses used to be able to collapse on Conley in the lane and he would usually turn the ball over or just reset the offense, now he's finding the open man before the defense has collapsed, but after it's shown.
- He's breaking more often: Mike's steals have been way up in February and March; he's at about 1.8 steals per game now, compared to well under 1 steal per game in October and November. Out on the break Mike has a shot to use his one exceptional ability: his speed with the basketball.
If Mike Conley can transform into a legitimate offensive threat, as he has been lately, it might not mean that his stats will skyrocket. Other players need shots more than he does. What it does mean, though, is that Mike will be more efficient then ever and so will the Grizzlies offense.
Consider when Jason Kidd learned how to shoot the 3 pointer in Dallas. His stats didn't jump off the page, but you can't just double off him anymore, because he'll beat you. That has made players like Marion, Dirk, and Terry much, much better.
The same thing can happen in Memphis. If Mike Conley can become a scoring threat, this team will regain its offensive swagger. Not because Mike's making up for Marc and O.J. losing their shots, but because nobody will have to work as hard to get a good look.