For the rest of the month, GBB will be breaking down every Grizzlies player that logged double-digit game appearances for Memphis this season and what their games need moving forward. Welcome to the 2018-2019 Memphis Grizzlies Player Review series!
BY THE NUMBERS:
70 games played (70 started), 43.8% shooting, 36.4% from three, 117 offensive rating, 111 defensive rating, 21.4 PER, .164 win shares per 48 minutes
SEASON IN REVIEW:
What a year for our conductor.
Mike Conley went from playing for a playoff birth and starting the season 12-5 next to his best buddy Marc Gasol to ending the season “injured” and watching a random collection of NBA players compete in Beale Street Blue and close out the campaign. Through it all - all the trade rumors, the intensity of the trade deadline, and the departure of Gasol and others as the season faded away - Conley gave just about everything he had.
He was the leader, trying to hold together a roster that endured trades, both failed and successful.
He was the scorer, posting career best numbers in scoring per game at 21.1 points every time he stepped on the floor while also scoring a career-high 40 points against the Trail Blazers and also posting the 2nd best PER of his career.
He was the focal point of offensive scheme, responsible for both creating for himself and for others as he posted the 2nd highest assist percentage of his career.
He was the steadying presence - as turmoil and tribulation doomed the Memphis Grizzlies season, Conley was the constant. And as he took hold of the top of the Grizzlies all-time scorers list, he solidified his place among the very best in the brief history of this franchise.
The ups and downs he experienced must have been remarkable. Truly the best, and worst, of times. In the days since the season ended, his frustrations with the way things were handled have become public. It is understandable that he would feel this way - despite the massive contract he signed years ago, Mike is allowed to feel the tightening grip of Father Time as his career starts to approach its twilight. The moves the Grizzlies have made, including the recent restructuring of basketball operations, do not scream “win now”. It appears Memphis may finally be accepting that the time has come to look further down the road than just next season and a playoff birth.
Considering all that has crossed his mind the last six months, the fact he returned to form as a top-25 player in the entire NBA this season after a campaign plagued by injury last season is truly impressive. He carried the Grizzlies both on and off the floor. Memphis would have been lost without their captain this season...even more so than they already have been.
What is next?
The $66 million question.
That is roughly the amount remaining on the contract of Mike Conley, and that is a good bit of money for any team considering taking on Mike in a trade. But Conley displayed another level to his game as a scorer that we haven’t seen from him consistently, and the concerns about age and his size leading to a decline have been drastically overstated so far.
Do you think Utah wishes Mike was playing for them?
Or the Detroit Pistons?
Probably so, on both counts.
With the off-season and new league year that starts July 1st comes new trade partners as cap space opens up. The Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks, and others figure to be players in free agency, but chances are one of (or both of) these teams will strike out and have to look to a plan B or plan C for improving their teams.
Enter Mike Conley.
Lonzo Ball and a 2021 top-5 protected 1st from the Lakers.
Mitchell Robinson and two future firsts - one from Dallas, one from New York.
Domantas Sabonis or Myles Turner and a 1st from Indiana.
The possibilities go on and on...and that doesn’t include the rumored teams from this past trade deadline, the Jazz and Pistons. There will be a market for Mike - it may not be hot until a week or so in to free agency, but the offers in July are almost sure to be better than the ones the Grizzlies got in February.
Consider it Mike’s parting gift - as Memphis looks to what is next, his great end to an extremely challenging year for him personally will help the Grizzlies build their next era.
One probably without Mike Conley.
Stats provided by basketball-reference.com