“Speak into existence.”
A popular slogan used philosophically, in motivational speeches, and by Lavar Ball.
Over the past several months, there’s one trade hypothetical I’ve wanted to speak into existence: Mike Conley to the Boston Celtics. It’s starting to pick up steam up, as ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said on the NBA Mock Draft special that the Celtics (if — but really, when — Kyrie walks), Pacers, and Jazz could be the strongest suitors for Conley.
It’s gaining traction. You love to see it.
For real though, I do see the value in the Boston Celtics trade package, as it’s the best situation for all parties involved. The Celtics could find a great replacement for Kyrie Irving, the Grizzlies will land a first-round pick (maybe two) in some capacity, and Mike Conley will have a legitimate chance to win a ring.
For the Boston Celtics, it makes sense to trade for Mike Conley, because Kyrie almost certainly won’t be returning next season. If Kyrie’s not back, why trade for Anthony Davis? They’d gut the roster to become Pelicans East? I seriously think he could win more games with Zion Williamson and Jrue Holiday than he would with Al Horford and Gordon Hayward. They’re also gearing towards supporting the duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
What better way to do that than trade for Mike Conley?
Even at 31 years old, Conley is still capable of playing at an All-Star level. He’s a perfect fit in Brad Stevens’ egalitarian offense, as he’s a great facilitator that can get you a bucket when needed. More importantly, he’s going to provide that stable veteran leadership they desperately needed this past season from Kyrie.
Acquiring Conley isn’t super splashy, but it legitimately helps their chances at contending for a title. Think I’m being silly? Just think.
Conley, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford with Brad Stevens as a head coach? That 5 and coach alone make them a threat for homecourt advantage. The steps the young players take and the support off the bench could help this team regain its form from the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals.
I know that the NBA is a business and that you always look out for your team when making a trade. However, the Boston Celtics is the best destination for Mike Conley to potentially win a title — to do a little more than make noise.
With Boston, Conley also has a great cast to battle with. He would have two of the league’s brightest young stars in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. He would have his own little Grindfather with a bulldog like Marcus Smart. He would have Al Horford, one of the most underrated big men this decade. In addition, he’d play for Brad Stevens, who’d be the best offensive mind he’s played under.
What more can he want?
Finally, for the Memphis Grizzlies, the trade package they would receive will be ridiculed at the time. When you dig deeper though, it wouldn’t be a terrible deal.
Jayson Tatum is off limits for sure. Though the Grizzlies will probably ask, I don’t see Jaylen Brown or Marcus Smart being in either package.
So that leaves the Grizzlies with... Gordon Hayward.
I know what’s coming. You’re about to storm to the comments and talk about paying Chandler Parsons and Hayward a combined total of $55M next season. On the surface, that sucks, but Parsons is on the books for one more year, while Hayward will have two years left on his contract. It’s not that big of a deal.
Yes, Hayward wasn’t himself last year, and it reminds a lot of people of Parsons’ fall from grace. He had to return after a traumatic injury he received from playing basketball — that’s painful psychologically. In addition, he had to regain his form from breaking his leg, his role was inconsistent, and he was in a terrible locker room situation.
In Memphis, Hayward would have a chance to start fresh in a pressure-free environment. The Grizzlies won’t be contending for a playoff spot, so he’ll have a chance to prove his worth and serve as a veteran guide for this young team.
It’s not hard to imagine him bouncing back and being a 15-5-5 guy next season. If he become that guy, that lifts so much pressure off Jaren Jackson Jr. and (likely) Ja Morant. In addition, in the 2020 season, he becomes a valuable trade asset, as playoff teams could see him as a half-season rental to bolster its title odds.
You won’t be getting just Hayward back. There will be a draft pick involved, but it’s hard to see which one comes to Memphis. Obviously, the Grizzlies should ask for their 2020 top-6 protected pick back (unprotected in 2021), but I don’t see that happening. It’ll be some sort of combination of the 14th, 20th, and 22nd picks.
If it’s just one, I bet it’d be the 14th pick. Yes, the Hayward/14 package sounds bleh, but it could still benefit the Grizzlies. Adding another lottery pick is huge, as they need all the young talent they could get. With this pick, they could afford to be splashy, whether it’s drafting someone like Kevin Porter Jr., Sekou Doumbouya, or Bol Bol. They could also find other players that could support a JJJ-Morant core with a shooter like Tyler Herro, a 6th man like Romeo Langford, or an all-around big like Brandon Clarke.
I wouldn’t even cross out landing both the 14th and 22nd pick, which would be a nice haul. With that 22nd pick, it’s another asset. It could be used in another trade, or they could find another young player. Picking a older college player like Cameron Johnson, Matisse Thybulle, or Grant Williams would be awesome. They could also do a draft-and-stash with Goga Bitadze or Luka Samanic.
Because of the young assets they won’t give up, and the Gordon Hayward contract, any potential Celtics trade package will be ridiculed. That doesn’t mean the Grizzlies lose the trade though. If Taylor Jenkins and company can find the right system to maximize the players and assets in the returning package, they could still come out winners in this trade — ya know, both teams can win a trade.
A Mike Conley to Boston trade package reminds me a lot of the Marc Gasol to Toronto deal.
Both initially ridiculed. It helps another team become a title contender. The return doesn’t seem that good, but it ends up actually being super solid. A Grizzlies legend ends up with a legitimate chance of getting a ring. Both teams essentially win the trade.
Boston can stay afloat at the top of the Eastern Conference with a Conley trade. The Grizzlies have a chance to strike gold with more draft picks, and they get to see if a former All-Star can regain his magic. Mike Conley has a chance to win a ring.
It just makes too much sense for it not to happen.