Grading the 2013-2014 Memphis Grizzlies: Mike Conley, PG

Mike Conley showed some improvements, but still has room to grow his game. - Andy Lyons

The fine folks at GBB begin our series of season player grades with a player who took a big leap forward this season. While Mike Conley improved in a big area of need, in order to truly become "elite" he must take on even more offensive and defensive responsibility.

Mike Conley, PG

2013-2014 Regular Season Statistics

GP MIN FGM FGA FG% 3PM 3PA 3P% FTM FTA FT% ORB DRB REB AST TO STL BLK PTS +/-
73 33.5 6.3 14.1 45.0% 1.4 4.0 36.1% 3.1 3.8 81.5% 0.6 2.4 2.9 6.0 2.1 1.5 0.2 17.2 +2.1

Advanced Metrics- Offensive Rating 105.0, Defensive Rating 103.7, 1.4 Net Rating. Usage Rate (Number of plays "used" per 40 PACE adjusted minutes)- 24.7, True Shooting Percentage (adjusting for value of FTs and 3PFGs)- 54.5%

2013-2014 Playoff Statistics

GP MIN FGM FGA FG% 3PM 3PA 3P% FTM FTA FT% ORB DRB REB AST TO STL BLK PTS +/-
7 38.1 6.3 14.6 43.1% 0.4 3.9 11.1% 2.9 3.7 76.9% 0.7 3.9 4.6 7.9 2.1 2.0 0.1 15.9 -4.4

Advanced Metrics- Offensive Rating 97.5, Defensive Rating 104.9, -7.4 Net Rating. Usage Rate (Number of plays "used" per 40 PACE adjusted minutes)- 22.2, True Shooting Percentage (adjusting for value of FTs and 3PFGs)- 48.9%

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Season Highlights

Mike Conley, as I detailed in my "In Conley We Trust" piece earlier this season, is the straw that stirs the drink for these Memphis Grizzlies. The growth of his game has almost directly coincided with the Bears of Beale Street being in the playoffs the past 4 seasons. He continued his development this season, especially on the offensive end of the court. Here are his 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 regular season shooting charts.

Conley_2012-2013_shot_chart_medium Conley_2013-2014_shot_chart_medium

The first thing that jumps out is his improvement in the lane; he had said going in to last season that one of his major goals was to get better at finishing in the paint. He got more efficient in that area, to be sure, which forced defenses to collapse and honor his drives more. His overall number of shots also went up, despite playing in 7 less games this season than the last. A full season out of the shadow of Rudy Gay did Mike Conley good as he was able to take more ownership of the offensive system. His three point percentage held steady from 2012-2013 to 2013-2014, and although his numbers during the playoffs were abysmal from range (11%!!!) that continues to be an area of impact and development for Mike.

He also showed a flare for the dramatic, as his season highlights showed above. Game winning or tying shots and plays in the 4th quarter against the San Antonio Spurs, New Orleans Pelicans, Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks come to mind as times where he rose to the size of the moment. Conley continued to grow into a role as Memphis' closer, perhaps not something he naturally tries to do, but the Grizzlies needed him to come through in those moments and he did.

Defensively, Mike continued to show in spurts the ability to impact games by creating turnovers, albeit not as often in his 2nd Team All-Defensive season of the year before. Mike's skill with his hands and timing in passing lanes is part of what separates him from other more offensively based Point Guards. However, his defensive season was not near the effort that he had the season prior; his defensive rating was -8.6 points worse this season than in 2012-2013. Part of this can be attributed to the loss of Marc Gasol for a chunk of the season, and Conley's own health as the year went along, but you could also see teams taking advantage of Mike on the pick and roll and bigger point guards using their size to render Conley's quickness less effective.

So, this season was a bit of a mixed bag for Mike. Here is one area of reinforcement and refinement for Conley heading into 2014-2015.

Reinforcement- Continue to Get Yourself Involved

Mike Conley's usage rate went up over 3 and a half from last season to this one, and this is a good sign for the Grizzlies moving forward. His level of involvement in the scheme set up by Head Coach Dave Joerger will likely only increase over the course of next season and beyond. The versatility of his usage was also encouraging; whether it be curling off of low post screens, playing off the ball in lineups with Nick Calathes or the pick-and-roll, Conley was an offensive weapon more often than not. Finding his shot should keep being a focus moving forward.

Refinement- Continue to Get Others Involved

Conley's assist levels have stayed pretty steady the past couple of seasons. Before this season, the low number of assists (6.3 over the previous 3 seasons) were attributed to the poor shooting of the Grizzlies. However, this season Memphis shot 2% better overall than the season before, and Conley's assist numbers went down slightly (6.0 as opposed to 6.1 the year before.)

As Mike takes on more of a scoring role, teams will game plan to try to limit his effectiveness. He needs to continue to try to find teammates and allow for them to score in areas of strength. As he drives to the rim, he can continue to make teams pay for helping off of him and feed the roll man to the rim, or hitting a player on the pick and pop. The drive and kick will also be more effective as teams honor his ability to drive more. Of course, it is up to his teammates to complete the play with a score, but Conley can stand to grow this area of his game.

Three Final Thoughts Before the Grade
  • Mike can get better at getting to the line. In comparing him to "elite" point guards, his average Free Throws Attempted of 3.8 is less than Chris Paul (5.6), Russell Westbrook (6.4), Damian Lillard (5.2) and even less "elite" guards like Kyle Lowry (4.9) and Goran Dragic (5.5) who perhaps are more on his level. A lot of fans complain about Conley not getting calls in the lane, and this is true to an extent. Sometimes, however, you have to make it clear that a bump or foul had occurred. This isn't "flopping", this is simply drawing attention to an infraction. More FTs, more points that Memphis sorely needs.
  • Conley's 3 point shooting needs to improve in the postseason. His career regular season average from beyond-the-arc is 37%, while his career postseason average is 29%, 8 percentage points less. The level of competition increases, certainly, but Mike needs to make those shots if Memphis hopes to get past the OKCs and Clippers of the world. They likely aren't going anywhere any time soon.
  • Health, as always, is important for any player, and Mike's health came in to question several times. Ankles and hamstrings especially dominated the Conley story at various points in the year, and durability could be a possible concern for Mike Conley moving forward. Mike has done an excellent job adding on muscle mass in the past to try to absorb some of the grind of the NBA season, and his ability to fight through those injuries and still be effective to an extent (see Game 7 against the Thunder, much of post-All-Star game Mike) is evidence of his leadership being on display. Mike Conley is a warrior; teammates respect that, and will follow him because of it.

The Grades

  • Growth in His Game- B+
  • Offensive Production- A-
  • Defensive Impact- B
  • Leadership/Intangibles- A

FINAL GRADE- B+

Mike had a very good season, at one point being considered a possible All-Star candidate. In order for him to take that next step and be considered among the top 5 or so Point Guards in the NBA and fully separate himself from the Dragic's and Lowry's of the world, he must be able to take over games on both ends, and that aggression will hopefully shine through heading in to next season.

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