Michael Conley, Jr. looked pretty flat in his first seven games to start the 2015-16 season. In his highest scoring game (at Utah) he scored 20 points on 25 shots. He was 6 of 31 from three-point range.
And this, a contract year for Conley.
Ah, but not so fast. Mike Conley has turned into a different player over the Memphis Grizzlies' last two games. Against Minnesota and Oklahoma City Mike scored 42 points on 55.6% shooting, shot 8 of 11 from three (72.7%), and logged 16 assists, 4 steals, 1 turnover and 1 foul.
That's what a Max Mike looks like.
I present to you some of the signs of Mike getting his groove back against the OKC Thunder.
Mike the Acrobat
Conley's first basket of the night really set the tone for him. The Thunder have Kyle Singler on Conley .. just offensive. So Mike naturally beats Singler around the Gasol screen, and then here's what he sees:
- Jeff Green hanging out near the baseline, not really creating much space but at least occupying part of Westbrook's brain.
- Russell Westbrook guarding Jeff Green.
- Steven Adams wisely playing off Z-Bo.
- Z-Bo standing wide open but .. ehh .. not really his spot.
At this point Mike decides to go into turbo mode. Jeff Green isn't offering a good passing angle, Z-Bo probably isn't launching from where he's standing and this leaves Westbrook and Adams planted in the paint. But Conley cranks it to another level and simply explodes past both defenders t
The explosion to the basket is matched in beauty by Mike's english off the backboard. And it's the kind of athletic feat that All-Star-snub level Mike Conley reeled off regularly last season.
Mike the Cerebral
Here we see Mike use his teammate Marc Gasol to create an opportunity for himself. Conley gets half a step on Westbrook off the dribble and tosses it back to Marc where the big man would normally go for the pop from the top of the key. Both Westbrook and Ibaka buy on what Marc's selling.
Conley recognizes this as both of their heads stay affixed to Gasol after he receives the pass. Mike sidesteps back behind the arc while RW and SI are distracted from Marc's scan of the court.
Mike knows he's going to shoot as soon as he starts his motion back towards the arc. All he needs is a slight flinch to keep Dion Waiters confused and the shot is up and down.
Mike the Exploiter
Classic Captain Clutch showed up near the final minute of the game to put one of the first nails in the coffin of the Thunder. Here we see Westbrook on Conley. When Mike passes it to Marc at the top of the key Westbrook calls out a switch to Dion Waiters so that Russ can take Jeff Green whom he probably suspects to be eyeballed by Gasol for a cut to the basket. Russ wants his athleticism on Jeff if that's the case.
But Mike uses the switch to his advantage. He knows Waiters doesn't have the lateral speed to match him. Seriously, look at how far Conley moves before Waiters can even react.
After Gasol sets the pick Conley bunnyhops several feet to take the pitch back and nails one of the catch and shoot 3's he's so good at.
These assertive plays on offense are what we need to see out of Mike Conley to keep the Grizzlies afloat in the Western Conference.