They jumped out to a hot 12-5 start. The defense was stifling. Jaren Jackson Jr. was — is — the one that could usher in the Grizzlies into the new era of great Memphis basketball, while also serving as the perfect third wheel next to Mike Conley and Marc Gasol. The Grizzlies imperfect, but efficient, supporting cast blossomed around the stars. Marc Gasol was playing at his Defensive Player of the Year level. A year after missing all but 12 games with a heel injury, Mike Conley looked like he didn’t miss a beat, garnering major attention for it.
That hot started ignited a new movement: #OneTimeForOneOne
For years, Mike Conley has been criminally underrated. In a world where scoring guards reigned supreme, Conley flew under the radar. His stats have never been sexy, but he got the job done and secured wins for his squad. He reminds me of a quarterback with lethal weapons around him — one that manages the game and gets the ball to the guys that needed it.
In the 2016-2017, a new Mike Conley was unleashed, as he was more aggressive, scored the ball more, and played like the scoring guard everyone adores. He, then, was snubbed and put on an incredible revenge tour — averaged 21.3 points, 4 rebounds, and 6.4 assists post-All-Star break, and 24.7 points and 7 assists in the playoffs.
This year felt like the year. He was just as lethal as he was in 2017, and his stats back it up — 20.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 6.3 assists. Instead, once again, he was left off the All-Star roster.
The difference this season though, you can’t really argue for him to make it.
Don’t be upset, but it’s true. Though the Western Conference playoff reserve choices were quite flawed, I struggled to make an argument for Mike Conley. Tobias Harris might’ve been the first Western Conference Player of the Month to not make an All-Star game, as he lost to Klay Thompson — who only had one good month of basketball. Coaches chose stats over impact on winning, picking Karl-Anthony Towns over Rudy Gobert. Luka Doncic is putting up historic rookie numbers and received the 4th-most fan votes, and still didn’t secure a spot on the roster. You could even make an argument for De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield, two players most responsible for the Sacramento Kings’ surprising season.
All of those guys have a stronger case for making the All-Star team than Mike Conley. It’s not due to his play at all, as he’s probably better than most of the guys I just mentioned.
The makeup and lack of success for this Memphis Grizzlies team killed any shot Mike Conley had at an All-Star game.
It’s hard to be displeased with what the Grizzlies did this past summer, given their cap situation. They nailed their first-round pick. They used the mid-level exception on a 25-year old playmaking wing with All-Defensive team potential. They turned their two worst players into a serviceable role player.
Where’s the problem? Everything before that.
When I say that, you’re probably scrolling relentlessly to the comments to give Chandler Parsons hate. You’re right, because his contract has hindered this team from building any type of formidable playoff contender — maybe even a playoff team for that matter.
Their failure in capitalizing on Tyreke Evans in some capacity. Bringing him back could’ve been a nice move for them, but having Emmanuel Mudiay as a backup point guard would’ve been a helluva upgrade over Shelvin Mack.
More importantly though, the Grizzlies’ failure of utilizing draft assets has brought them to this point. Mike Conley and Darrell Arthur are the only first-round picks to sign a second deal with the Grizzlies. Imagine if Wade Baldwin, who was waived after one season, was Pascal Siakam or Malik Beasley. What if the Grizzlies used one of those second-round picks they traded a first-round pick for on Malcolm Brogdon? I could go on and on with former picks, but those two scenarios stand out to me, because those guys would still be on rookie deals.
Hitting on draft picks is such a cheap way to build a good roster, and the Grizzlies failed at it for almost 10 years.
Years and years of bad roster decisions have gotten the Grizzlies to this point, and it ruined a perfect, and perhaps his last shot at an, All-Star season for Mike Conley.
It’s not just the makeup of this roster, but it’s also coaching.
The Memphis Grizzlies’ downward spiral could’ve been avoided, but they failed to make adjustments. Shelvin Mack shouldn’t have been the backup guard. They went to Jevon Carter too late, and they should’ve fully trusted him with the position. JB Bickerstaff should’ve recognized that the trio of Mack, JaMychal Green, and Marc Gasol doesn’t work at all. They never really tinkered with offensive schemes, and their defense started leaking and gave up a boatload of 3-pointers.
The coaching staff has ultimately struggled to make adjustments, which has caused this season to fall apart. As a result, a losing record blemishes Mike Conley’s stellar All-Star resume — like a bad social media post for someone looking for a job.
Mike Conley has had a great season this year, and what will he have to show for it? The team’s lack of success hindered his case for becoming an All-Star. He won’t be able to show off on the biggest stage in the playoffs — at least in a Grizzly uniform.
This team’s roster and coaching decisions have finally caught up with this team, and it’s caused a ripple effect in two ways:
- Preventing one of the franchise’s best players from making his All-Star appearance.
- Sending that player and the most decorated player in franchise history on the trade block.
It’s a damn shame.