Whether it is here at Grizzly Bear Blues, other local media outlets, or even the national outlets like ESPN and Bleacher Report, there has been widespread speculation regarding a Mike Conley trade for the Grizzlies. The Grizzlies first entertained offers this past trade deadline, but opted to keep their Conductor to wrap up their season and achieve their goal of conveying the pick to Boston.
Here we are in mid-May and the Grizzlies did not achieve their goal of conveying the pick to Boston. Turns out, landing the #2 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft can make you forget all about the word “convey”. Regardless of the Grizzlies getting lucky in the Draft Lottery, they seemed intent on listening to Conley trade offers again this off-season. At the Grizzlies exit interviews, Conley seemed fine with the idea of being traded to a contender. Watching his buddy Marc Gasol in the Eastern Conference Finals likely makes Mike more inclined to want a trade to a contender.
With the opportunity to select Ja Morant at #2, trading Mike will be easier for the Grizzlies. Still, the timing of a Conley trade could be just as important as the (potential) trade. In short, the Grizzlies have four options on when they can trade Conley which I have analyzed below.
Before the 2019 NBA Draft
The Grizzlies could opt to trade Mike Conley prior to the NBA Draft on June 20th, 2019. Presumably, a trade prior to the draft would have the Grizzlies acquiring another teams first round pick thus allowing the Grizzlies to make their own selection at whichever pick they trade for. If they trade Conley prior to June 13th (Jonas Valanciunas’ option deadline) then a pending Conley trade could have an impact on whether or not Jonas takes his player option. If Jonas were to decline his option prior to the Draft, the Grizzlies would possibly use whatever pick they get in a Conley trade on a big man.
However, there are a few cons to trading Conley prior to the draft. Most teams spend the months leading up to the draft making plans for the draft as well as free agency. Therefore teams like the Knicks, Lakers, Clippers etc. won’t be too inclined to make a move on a Conley trade as they have their sights set on bigger names.
Simply put, trading Mike before the draft is likely just too early.
During the 2019 NBA Draft
Draft night always brings about a ton of trades in the NBA, granted mostly involving picks and secondary players. Still, the high pressure stakes of the NBA Draft could be a good time to trade Conley and snag another first round pick. Teams are always looking to trade up and back in a draft, especially if things don’t go as planned.
For example, it’s been reported that Phoenix likely has their eyes set on Darius Garland at the #6 spot in the draft. What happens if the Lakers take Garland at #4 or if a team trades up in front of the Suns to take Garland? The Suns could settle and take Coby White, or they could panic and make a trade for a guy like Mike Conley. Teams make very rash decisions during the draft and the Grizzlies should be prepared to pounce on an opportunity to take advantage of a team who may have missed “their guy” in the draft.
In this scenario, the team the Grizzlies trade Conley to would still make the pick but they would be selecting whoever the Grizzlies instruct them to. It’s also important to note that by draft night, Jonas Valanciunas will have either opted in or out of his player option with the Grizzlies. Trading Conley on draft night, or prior, could also have an influence on whether or not they cut Avery Bradley, who only has $2 million guaranteed if waived prior to July 3rd.
Draft night could still be too early for a trade with a team looking to make a bigger splash in free agency, especially with the Lakers and Knicks securing top 4 picks. The Grizzlies can probably get a pretty good deal during the 2019 NBA draft, but not necessarily the best deal.
2019 Free Agency
The Grizzlies could opt to hold on to Mike Conley into the frenzy that will be the 2019 NBA off-season. If they hold onto Mike into the free agency period, they’ll likely wait for the dust to settle before making a trade. Although making a splash at the beginning of free agency would be cool, it would benefit the Grizzlies the most to wait and see how the landscape plays out. Where Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis and Kemba Walker land could help clear up potential Conley destinations.
Clearly the teams that sign Irving and Walker won’t be in need of Conley’s services, and the team who trades for Anthony Davis will likely give up most of, if not all, their good assets to do so. However, the teams that fail to sign the premiere point guards in free agency or make a trade for Anthony Davis should have Zach Kleiman on speed dial. The Grizzlies could take advantage of a desperate team who struck out in the free agency period and convince them to overpay for Conley. A trade during the off-season would also offer the Grizzlies various types of options in the trade. Teams can offer who they selected in the 2019 NBA Draft, a 2020 first-round pick, multiple future firsts, or a couple of proven young players.
The downside of trading Conley would be that some of the first round picks will have diminished value in the future. Getting a first round pick from a team like the Knicks, Lakers or Celtics would likely mean getting a pick in the 20’s of a future draft whereas all 3 teams have lottery picks in 2019. With all the movement that goes on in the free agency period, the Grizzlies can’t hold onto Mike too long otherwise they could be without a place to send as teams resort to their Plan B’s, C’s and D’s of the off-season.
During the 2019-2020 Season
Keeping Conley into the 2019-2020 would allow him to mentor and help ease Ja Morant (assuming the Grizz continue with their plans on drafting him) into the NBA. Mike may not take Ja under his wing and prepare him for everything, but even just a couple months of learning behind Mike Conley could do wonders for Ja. Conley would also immediately become the biggest trade chip during the season should a playoff or championship contender lose their point guard due to injury.
Keeping Conley into the 2019-2020 season could make things very awkward, though. It was a weird few weeks when Conley and Gasol’s names were in the trade rumors last deadline and it took a few weeks after the deadline for that awkwardness to go away. Mike has already hinted at not being a fan of his future with the team being up in the air, and holding him into the season would only keep that cloud of his and the team's head even longer. There is also the great risk that Conley could get hurt again or not play as well as he did to wrap up the 2018-2019 season.
Ultimately, I believe the Grizzlies should wait until the free agency period and then take the best offer that comes their way. The draft is too soon in my opinion and I don’t want to risk holding onto Mike into the season despite how helpful he could be to Ja.
The timing of a Conley trade is clearly very tricky and Zachary Kleiman and Jason Wexler will have their hands full this off-season dealing with this as well as the corresponding moves that come from a Conley trade. Regardless, a Conley trade will be the talk of Grizz Nation until a deal finally comes to fruition.
When is the best time to trade Mike Conley?
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Before the 2019 Draft
During the 2019 Draft
During the 2019 Free Agency Period
During the 2019-2020 Season