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Mike Conley Needs a Little Help From His Friends

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The Friday Three this week is getting a bit of a face lift. In our first section, we take a look at Mike Conley's dastardly December so far.

Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Conley has looked a little bit...rough this month. It's been a long December already for the Memphis Grizzlies' "Captain Clutch", who has seen a lot of his averages, even in a down season by his standards, take a nose dive.

October/November(18 Games) December (5 Games)
Points Per Game 15.8 9.8
Shooting % 42.2 31.6
3-Point Shooting % 37.0 21.1
Assists Per Game 6.5 5.4
Offensive Rating 100.4 93.3
Defensive Rating 103.3 110.6
Net Rating -3.9 -17.3

One of the major reasons for this, especially with regard to assists and points per game, is that his minutes are down in the smaller sample size of December. He has played 27.6 minutes per game the past five games, whereas he played 32.5 minutes per game in the 18 October/November games. That five minute difference can mean an assist or point or two less. It also can mean less shot attempts; he has attempted about a shot and a half less per game over the past five games than he did the previous 18.

The percentages and ratings, though? Regardless of minutes, very concerning. Conley has been up and down all season, but his issues seem especially pronounced recently. His shot chart from December is an angry Christmas card, more red than green...

Conley December

On top of all of that, Conley's defense has been especially bad as of late. He has either played to a stalemate or been outperformed by a variety of other starting point guards who he should supposedly play better than. Here are the +/- numbers from those games.

  • @ New Orleans (W 113-104)- Mike Conley (-13) vs. Jrue Holiday (+6)
  • vs. San Antonio (L 103-83)- Mike Conley (-6) vs. Tony Parker (+6)
  • vs. Phoenix (W 95-93)- Mike Conley (+1) vs. Brandon Knight/Eric Bledsoe (-3 combined)
  • vs. Oklahoma City (L 125-88)- Mike Conley (-22) vs. Russell Westbrook (+22)
  • @ Detroit (W 93-92)- Mike Conley (-5) vs. Reggie Jackson (-1)

An imperfect stat to be sure, but what it does show/measure is that Mike is struggling to get a positive point differential with him on the floor in December. On defense, he has been especially abused in the pick and roll. Multiple times other defenders have had to take over Conley's initial assignment, and that is a major cause for concern.

Those numbers should strike fear in most Grizzlies' fans. It is widely accepted at this point that Mike Conley "should" be Memphis' second best player behind Marc Gasol. He has not been that guy for long stretches as he needs to be for this team to be successful, however. Mike has had health issues this year (not this season, but dating back to the 2015 playoffs) and returning from those is surely a challenge. Finding his footing has proven to be problematic, but he should not have to do it alone. It's the perfect time of year to recover what should be a great contract year for Mike. He just needs a little help from his friends.

Mike Conley needs to be able to lean on his teammates and coaches as he gets back on track.

How can the Grizzlies help Conley out? For one, continued investment of minutes in him alongside Mario Chalmers. The Conley/Chalmers combo has some impressive numbers together, including an offensive efficiency of 122.1 and a net rating of 12.3. Their two-man lineup also boasts the highest true shooting percentage of any two-man combo who has played more than 20 minutes together at 61.1%. The issue is in the fact that Conley and Chalmers, in 13 games, have only played together for 52 minutes, an average of four minutes a game. Chalmers lets Conley play off the ball and create for himself through others, not all by his lonesome. Lightening his offensive responsibility could allow for him to find his stroke.

While we are looking at lineups, more time with smaller groups should allow for Conley to get out in transition and run. Whether it is with Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, or JaMychal Green at the center position, a crew of Conley/Chalmers/Lee/Matt Barnes could fly around the court and has a net rating of 31.1 so far this season. They also have only seen the floor a combined 5 minutes so far.

So, Mike's best friend? Dave Joerger. He needs to try some new looks and lineups to get Mike moving and running. Once the flow of the game comes to him, and not the other way around, he will find better success.