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Looking back at the Mike Conley trade

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The Mike Conley trade ultimately put the hammer

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Utah Jazz v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

At the time of the trade, the Mike Conley trade was seen positively for both teams.

Utah received the most praise for it. As the Western Conference opened up, the Jazz emerged as title contenders after the trade. SB Nation’s SLC Dunk praised the trade, lauding the potential big 3, quality depth, and its two-way upside. Virtually everyone gave the Jazz an A-level grade, except for ESPN’s Kevin Pelton, who questioned Utah’s depth after the losses of Jae Crowder and Kyle Korver.

The Memphis Grizzlies left a more polarizing response to the trade. Nothing was considered a failure, but most people gave it an average-to-great grade. In the grand scheme of things, the Grizzlies received cap relief, an underwhelming rookie, a pick in the 20’s in a weaker draft, and a future 1st. Those type of returns generate mixed results. The only national outlet that gave Memphis an ‘A’ was ESPN, as Pelton liked how the Grizzlies added a former 1st-round pick and two future 1sts, and how Memphis had the potential to expand its draft capital through Crowder and Korver.

Local media members and the GBB staff loved the return.

Everyone on the Grizzly Bear Blues roundtable spoke highly of the trade and thought the Grizzlies got the maximum value out of Conley. The Athletic’s Peter Edmiston and the Daily Memphian’s Chris Herrington praised the front office’s ability to grab another 1st round pick and to generate a massive trade exception to take on unwanted salary with an added asset.

It was tough to gauge Conley’s trade value, as he was a 31 year-old point guard with recent injury history and a massive contract. However, the Grizzlies were able to extract the proper value and came out of the deal positioned for the future.

A season later, do the results reflect the instant reaction the trade received? Let’s take a look at how this trade has fared out thus far.


Memphis Grizzlies v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

What We Know From This Season

The trade didn’t go as expected for either team, both in the worst and best ways possible.

For the Utah Jazz, they didn’t get the Mike Conley they traded for until the last half of the season. He finished the season averaging 14.4 points and 4.4 assists, while shooting 40.9% from the field and 37.5% from deep. He was casted as a bit of a scapegoat within Jazz Twitter, as I saw numerous tweets and reports suggesting he should come off the bench. However, he later found his touch from his Memphis days. He showed out in the playoffs (19.8 points and 5.2 assists on a sizzling 52.9% from deep on 6.8 attempts per game), but it wasn’t enough for the Utah Jazz, as they blew a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets in the first round.

For the Memphis Grizzlies, they got the best-case situation from this trade thus far. They flipped Kyle Korver’s non-guaranteed deal to a team looking for cap relief, acquiring 2 young players (De’Anthony Melton and Josh Jackson) and two second-round picks. That haul doesn’t get much better than that.

In addition, despite the polarizing opinion of him, the Grizzlies did get good value out of Jae Crowder. Even though his 3-point percentage in Memphis was low (29.3%), his volume — 6.4 a game — generated gravity for Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Dillon Brooks. He was also a useful defender, rebounder, and secondary playmaker. Ultimately, they got what they needed out of him. He served as a mentor, contributed at a rotation-player level, then was dealt in an exchange for another young guy on a team-friendly deal (Justise Winslow).

The two biggest wins of the deal, thus far, are Brandon Clarke and Grayson Allen.

Clarke wasn’t supposed to fall down to 21, as most people were anticipating Memphis using this pick on Ty Jerome or Matisse Thybulle. However, Clarke — a consensus top-10 prospect — slipped, and the Grizzlies jumped at the opportunity and traded up from 23 to 21. He looks like Ja and Jaren’s third fiddle. He arguably had the 2nd-best rookie this season, as he was historically efficient offensively. With his budding offensive game, he has the ceiling of an elite role player that could swing the Grizzlies’ ceiling.

Allen emerged as a great shooter and secondary playmaker off the bench, as he shot 40.4% from 3 on 3.7 attempts. Shooting is a premium in the modern NBA, and having a 40% 3-point shooter on a rookie contract for 2 more years is valuable for any team.

Most importantly, the pieces in this trade contributed to the Grizzlies’ successful season, as Memphis emerged as one of the league’s surprise teams and came within a game of making the postseason.


Memphis Grizzlies v Portland Trail Blazers - Game One Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

What We Know Going Forward

Going forward, it’s going to be easier for the Memphis Grizzlies to look like the winners from this trade. They acquired two young players — one that’s an above-average shooter, and the other that’s a modern big man with elite role player upside. Then, they leveraged the two veterans from the deal into assets in the form of picks and young players. They also generated a $25M trade exception from the deal that was used to acquire Andre Iguodala and a lightly-protected 2024 first-round pick.

There’s also still a future 1st-round pick to be conveyed, and it possesses the following protections:

  • 2020, 2021: top 7, 15-30
  • 2022: top 6
  • 2023: top 3
  • 2024: Utah keeps it if it’s 1st.
  • 2025: 2 seconds

Given the depth of the Western Conference, this pick should convey in the teen’s in either the 2021 or 2022 draft.

Utah got the best player in the trade, and until we know what Brandon Clarke and the future pick become, it’ll stay that way. Conley is one of the league’s best point guards, and adding someone that can spot up, facilitate, and create at a high level next to Mitchell and Gobert was massive. But if this trade was an all-in move for a championship, is that the only way it becomes a win?

Both teams fulfilled their goals in this deal. One team was able to completely hit the reset button and usher into a new era of the franchise, and the other became a contender for a championship. There is no loser in this trade, but over the next several seasons, we’ll see who emerges as the biggest winner, especially as we see how the youth in the deal develop.

Right now, the Grizzlies might have the lead.

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