Mike Conley signed the biggest contract in league history, 5 years - $152,605,576, over the summer. The league and media erupted with disbelief, claiming this was an unnecessary move to keep an unproven point guard.
Mike Conley is going to make over $30 million a year?! MIKE CONLEY?! Is he even a top 40 NBA player? Biggest contract in league history.— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) July 1, 2016
As a Memphis fan, I spent the next two weeks after his signing defending why the organization made this decision. And I am here to say that Mike Conley is earning his $26,540,100 this year. He got snubbed from the All-Star game again, but do we have to act surprised? (Think of who he competing with- Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, just to name a few.)
Based on the last 10 games alone, Mike Conley is playing at an elite level, and definitely at a level that the Memphis Grizzlies need their highest paid player to play at.
On the season Conley is averaging 19.4 points per game, in the last 10 games, he has bumped that up to 22.1. His assist and rebound numbers are about even, but his play on the floor is what stands out. He shooting the ball more confidently (see the video below for proof), just under 49% in the last 10 games. He is 44% from 3-point land, that’s up three percent from his season average, and he is attempting just over six 3-pointers a game. It’s no secret this year Coach Fizdale has made a conscious effort to make the Grizzlies team more of a 3-point threat.
A new development in Conley’s game has been to get to the free throw line. He has been shooting free throws very efficiently, shooting 86% on the year (and the same percentage in the last 10 games), but he is getting to the free throw line more often as of late.
He has gotten to the free throw line 5 times or more in 5 out of the last 10 games. That can cause all kinds of issues for opposing defenses. Getting to the charity stripe opens up Conley’s three point shot because defenders will respect his rim attack. Inevitably, with defenders mounting up fouls in him, this gives defenders less room for error in the closing minutes of games and gives the Grizzlies a higher chance to be in the bonus towards the end of each quarter.
There are tons of statistical categories that reflect Conley’s huge impact on the Grizzly team this year. For example, he has at least on steal in 8 of the last 10 games, and multiple steals in 6 of the last 10. But if you look at the minute breakdown of the point guard position for the Grizzlies, Conley is logging an overwhelming majority of minutes quarterbacking this team.
The other point guards on the roster are: Wade Baldwin IV, Toney Douglas, and Andrew Harrison. For the record, Wade Baldwin IV has appeared in one game since January 3rd. (That’s one appearance in 21 games for those who are counting.) Toney Douglas is on his second 10-day contract, so can we really consider him a consistent point guard on this team? Andrew Harrison consumed most of the back-up minutes, that is until Toney Douglas appeared on the scene to take his spot.
Since Toney Douglas’s arrival on his second 10-day contract, Andrew Harrison has logged 7.8 minutes per game, including zero minutes in the last two games (Sorry @chipwilliamsjr, this article is great, though.)
Toney Douglas has brought a new spark to the Grizzlies second team, but has mostly been a body to bring the ball up the floor. Douglas has more games with zero points than he does with double-digit scoring in his most recent contract. One positive note is that Douglas is playing around 18 minutes a game, this gives Conley much needed rest through this crucial stretch of the season.
The point is, Mike Conley is carrying this team at his position. He has virtually no help offensively, but still scoring and facilitating at an elite level. The Grizzlies are 34-24, 7-3 in the last 10. They are currently the six seed in the Western Conference behind the struggling Utah Jazz and LA Clippers. The team has played well coming into the All-Star break, and a huge part of that has been Conley’s leadership on the court. Unfortunately, he will get to take the All-Star break to rest since he won’t be participating, but look for his elevated play to continue starting back on Friday, February 24th on the road against the Indiana Pacers.