Does your favorite team want to acquire Mike Conley?
They should...if the price is right.
It isn’t often that the right combination of player and man is available via trade. Sure, more talented pieces could be available this summer, with Anthony Davis being the headliner on that list. And yes, there are good men all around the National Basketball Association that are worthy of praise. Mike is not unique in that way.
Where Conley is indeed a prized piece, however, is in the fact that he is extremely talented (coming off one of the best seasons of his career offensively), he is a leader that will be a force for good in any locker room and community, and perhaps most importantly...he is available.
Availability is the most important ability, after all. If Memphis is indeed interested in shipping out Conley this summer - and they probably should be at this stage, depending on how the NBA Draft Lottery shakes out in May and who the Grizzlies hire as head coach - Mike will be a solid plan A, B, or even C for a variety of NBA teams.
So what squads should prioritize acquiring a player of Conley’s skill set? We start a series exploring just that with this article. We will be listing eight teams that should be very interested in Mike. In Part one, we discuss two Eastern Conference - where Mike reportedly (Conley refused the report later) wants to go to get a shot at a well-deserved All-Star Game birth - contenders, with a trade idea for each team and a description of why each team (and the Grizzlies themselves) should do the deal.
Let’s start with a possible title team in the East without Mike, and an almost certain one if they do.
Memphis receives: Zhaire Smith, the rights to the 2019 1st round pick from Philadelphia (24th overall), 2021 1st round pick from Philadelphia (Lottery protected, becomes two 2nd round picks in 2023 and 2024 if not conveyed)
Philadelphia receives: Mike Conley
I know, no Ben Simmons. I am disappointed too - but there’s no way Philly moves on from Ben without Memphis giving up additional assets...which they should not do.
This (like most of the trades that will be discussed in this series) would not be able to be completed until Philadelphia got the cap space necessary once the contracts of many players, including Jimmy Butler (player option he almost certainly will opt out of) and Tobias Harris, come off the books. The Sixers will be able to extend those two players while going over the salary cap thanks to having Bird rights on them, so acquiring Conley would not prevent them from bringing back one (or both) of the players as long as they got him first. Trading Smith would result in Philly taking on roughly $29.5 million in salary, placing them at about $97 million across six players, making them $12 million under the cap in general and roughly $36 million under the luxury tax (assuming they renounce cap holds on several free agents).
Why Philadelphia does the deal - Mike alongside Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, plus one of Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris? That’s a pretty impressive crew. Now it means making a choice - Butler or Harris - more than likely, and perhaps Philadelphia would rather have them both than make a move for Mike. But Mike’s deal will expire in the summer of 2021, whereas a Harris or Butler deal would linger beyond that. With Conley, you’re saving money in the long run while still having a player of comparable impact to Butler and Harris in the building.
And if you fully embrace being a tax payer, especially in 2020-2021 when a new Ben Simmons contract kicks in? Conley/Butler/Simmons/Harris/Embiid is a Finals contender, and numerous veterans will ring chase/get vet minimum deals to join you.
Why Memphis does the deal - Zhaire Smith and two 1st round picks is a solid haul for Mike and the contract that will most likely be harder to send out than Grizzlies fans would care to admit. Smith is young, athletic, and has shown the ability both in college and early in his NBA career to play multiple perimeter positions. The problem? Smith has only played in seven total games this season due to a variety of ailments. Him being sent out of Philly is punting on raw and real potential, and the reboot of Smith (the 16th pick in the 2018 NBA Draft) alongside draft class buddy Jaren Jackson Jr. could be fun to see.
The later draft picks adds to an asset cupboard that is pretty bare. The only way that 2021 1st doesn’t convey is if something goes horribly wrong in Philadelphia. 2022 is widely viewed as the 1st year of the one and done rule being done, and if that is indeed the case then those drafts will have more talent. A 2022 first, or even a 2023 and 2024 2nd, will hold more value due to the increase in value available.
Next? A squad that may be one injury, and one star (or two), away from glory
Memphis receives: Domantas Sabonis, Doug McDermott, 2020 1st Round Pick (Lottery protected 2020, becomes two 2nd round picks in 2022 and 2023 if not conveyed)
Indiana receives: Mike Conley
Conley gets a chance to return home...and get another star to join him and Victor Oladipo with the Pacers.
Why Indiana does the deal: While parting with the young Sabonis smarts, Indy probably sees this as their window with the deal that is the Oladipo contract expiring in the summer of 2021, the same time as Conley. That gives them two years to, alongside Conley and Myles Turner (another great contract at 4 years $72 million) attract another near max-level player. Indy would be committed to a little bit less than $83 million in seven players, meaning they’d be $26 million under the salary cap and almost $50 million under the luxury tax to spend on eight players, not including their two draft picks in this draft. That 18th pick the Pacers have in this draft will be paid $2.34 million this season, so if Indy keeps that selection they’ll be at $23.5 under the cap to sign players (again, assuming they renounce cap holds or re-sign Bird rights players).
They have some room to make that number larger in other trades, but even if they didn’t that kind of money could possibly allow for them to bring in a Malcolm Brogdon and/or J.J. Redick while still bringing back their own key free agents if they so choose via Bird rights, like Thaddeus Young. A Conley/Oladipo/Turner core is strong to begin with, but with every addition the Pacers make themselves that much tougher while not disrupting their core.
Why Memphis does the deal: When crafting the perfect young big man partner in crime next to Jaren Jackson Jr. (if you’re a believer he isn’t an NBA center, at least not full-time), Domantas Sabonis may be the end result. he is extremely efficient shooting the basketball (59% during the regular season) while also being a possible three point threat (34.3% in three NBA season) and a tremendous rebounder (9.3 boards per game in just 24.8 minutes played, best on the Pacers). Among players that played at least 1,500 minutes for Indiana this season he led the Pacers in net rating (+14), true shooting percentage (63%), PER (21.9), and had the highest win shares per 48 minutes mark on the entire Pacers roster regardless of minutes played (.197) - yes, that includes Oladipo.
He can score, he can defend, he can facilitate...he just hasn’t gotten starter-level minutes (only played 24.8 per game this year) because of sharing a loaded front court with Young and Turner. His per-36 minutes numbers have him on par in terms of production with Oladipo himself. While Jonas Valanciunas may make that problem continue in theory, the Grizzlies could easily flip him for a draft pick (or two if they are 2nd rounders) to another team if they chose to not extend him and prioritize Sabonis and Jaren together.
McDermott adds a shooting element to the roster that is needed, and while that 1st round pick will almost certainly convey in 2020 and be outside of the lottery it is another trade asset or piece to acquire young talent.
Sabonis is the best player Memphis gets in either deal, but the Philadelphia trade is for more draft selections down the road. Which would you prefer? Vote in the poll, and comment in the thread below.
In Part II, we will explore Eastern Conference teams that figure to be more in the mix next season than they currently are.
Which package in return for Mike Conley do you prefer?
This poll is closed
Philadelphia (Zhaire Smith, the rights to the 2019 1st round pick from Philadelphia (24th overall), 2021 1st round pick from Philadelphia (Lottery protected, becomes two 2nd round picks in 2023 and 2024 if not conveyed)
Indiana (Domantas Sabonis, Doug McDermott, 2020 1st Round Pick (Lottery protected 2020, becomes two 2nd round picks in 2022 and 2023 if not conveyed)