One of the players with the highest odds to get dealt this summer is Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley.
The 11-year veteran was already almost sent packing by the Grizzlies back in February’s trade deadline, and the rumor mill is hot with tidings that Memphis is looking to move the experienced floor general this summer. Those rumors got especially steamy once the Grizzlies got the No. 2 pick in the 2019 draft, which they’re almost certainly going to use on Murray State point guard Ja Morant.
The latest report on a potential Conley trade came courtesy of The New York Times’ Marc Stein, who wrote:
“The Grizzlies are widely expected to use the No. 2 pick on Murray State’s Ja Morant and trade the ever-reliable Mike Conley in their last big move to fully leave the Grit ‘n Grind era behind for players who would fit well alongside the two young cornerstones.”
There have been a few teams rumored to be interested in landing Conley this offseason, and below, we break down four of the most interesting potential landing spots for the 31-year-old ball-handler.
The Utah Jazz looked like frontrunners for Conley at the trade deadline, and apparently that hasn’t changed as we approach the offseason. According to The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor, Utah is still very much interested in acquiring the veteran floor general this summer:
“That is, unless Memphis trades Conley – multiple league sources said this week that the Jazz are expected to make another push for him after failing to land him prior to the deadline.”
The Jazz’s interest in Conley makes sense, as he would be a much better fit next to budding star Donovan Mitchell than their current option at the point-guard spot, Ricky Rubio, is. Rubio’s lack of shooting and overall ineffectiveness playing off the ball has been really exploited in the postseason over the last two years, and has put an unfair burden on his 22-year-old backcourt partner.
Conley, on the other hand, a 37.8 percent three-point shooter over the last five years and a guy who can do tons of damage attacking out of the pick-and-roll, would take some of the scoring load off of Mitchell and space the floor aptly playing off of him as well.
Conley’s deal may be pricey, but he would be well worth the price for Utah; he could take them from good to great.
With their starting point guard from the last two years, Darren Collison, hitting free agency, the Indiana Pacers could peruse the trade market for an upgrade at the position – an upgrade like Conley.
Next to Victor Oladipo, Conley would space the floor and lock down opposing point guards, and coming off of picks set by Myles Turner, he’ll easily be able to get to his preferred teardrop floating finisher. Overall, Conley would provide a massive step up in production at the lead-guard spot for Indiana, would help Oladipo by taking some of the pressure off him to score so much and would use his two-way prowess to upgrade the Pacers’ starting five.
To land him, Indiana could offer Memphis a package headlined by Domantas Sabonis, the talented young big man who may be better served on a team where he could flourish as the starting center, instead of being forced to remain in the backup role the Pacers currently have him in. With the Grizzlies in the midst of what appears to be a full rebuild, players with Sabonis’ upside should be exactly who they’re targeting, especially since his fit next to Jaren Jackson Jr. should be seamless.
Indiana finished as the East’s No. 4 seed this season, and that was without Oladipo for a good chunk of the year. By getting him back healthy and pairing him with an experienced talent like Conley, the Pacers could make the push closer towards the top of the conference.
The Orlando Magic are coming off their best campaign since 2011-12, reaching the playoffs for the first time in six seasons and boasting their first All-Star since Dwight Howard.
Even so, they still have a hole to fill at point guard. DJ Augustin did an admirable job as their full-time starter this past season, averaging 11.7 points and 5.3 assists per contest, but at this point in his career, his best role is probably that of a backup ball-handler and not as a starter on a playoff team.
If the Magic were able to acquire Conley somehow, that would allow Augustin to slide back a spot in the rotation and give Orlando a solid 1-2 punch at the position.
Granted, the Magic did trade for Markelle Fultz last season in hopes the job could eventually be his, but at this point, it’s pretty risky to think he’ll be ready for that role to start 2019-20. Landing Conley would put less pressure on the embattled former No. 1 pick, and give him a good mentor until he is ready.
For a team that was a fringe postseason club in 2018-19, landing a borderline All-Star such as Conley – at a position of need, no less – should bolster their rotation enough to make trips to the playoffs more of an annual occurrence.
SAN ANTONIO SPURS
A team that rarely uses the trade market to improve its roster, the San Antonio Spurs could be an interesting Conley suitor for a variety of reasons.
For starters, San Antonio has a dearth of young ball-handlers in their rotation as is, and that’s without the injured Dejounte Murray, who may be best of the bench. With a core of 24-and-under guards including Murray, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker and Bryn Forbes, the Spurs could have almost too much of a good thing on their hands, since there might not be enough minutes for each of those guys to shine and develop.
Would it make sense, then, for them to package one or two of those players and make an offer for Conley?
With a floater reminiscent of an old Gregg Popovich disciple, Tony Parker, Conley would be a fantastic addition to San Antonio. What’s more, next to LaMarcus Aldridge, the tandem would form a downright nasty pick-and-roll combo.
It would be surprising to see the Spurs make a deal of this magnitude of their own volition, since, well, they’re the Spurs, but a trade for Conley would not just make them better in the short term, it would also help clear up a potential logjam next season.
Plus, it’s not like they would have to deal both Murray and White; they should be able to keep one and trade the other, giving them the immediate gains in Conley without totally killing their long-term development.
You can follow Frank Urbina on Twitter: @FrankUrbina_.