The more things change, the more they stay the same. The Utah Jazz are expected to make another run at Mike Conley according to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. Numerous league sources are expecting Utah to acquire the 32 year old point guard this offseason.
At no. 2, the franchise will have its choice of some talented prospects, namely Murray State point guard Ja Morant, a playmaking savant with rocket-boosters for shoes, or Duke forward R.J. Barrett, a tough shotmaker with the potential to emerge as a versatile defender. Morant, especially, seems like an intriguing fit: He would make for a tremendous long-term pick-and-roll partner with Jackson and could learn the tricks of the trade behind veteran point guard Mike Conley Jr. (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.) However, the Grizzlies stand out as the team that should most strongly consider trading down. Since Memphis will cede a future first-round pick to the Celtics, it has extra incentive to use this pick to acquire another asset.
We have already talked about one trade package that Utah could send that would be the following put forward by fellow SB Nation site Grizzly Bear Blues.
Memphis receives: Royce O’Neale, Grayson Allen, 2020 1st round pick (protected 1-4 and 15-30 in 2020, protected 1-4 and 23-30 in 2021, unprotected in 2022), 2023 2nd round pick
Utah receives: Mike Conley
Why Utah does the deal: I mean...isn’t it obvious?
The Jazz give up none of their “core” pieces. None of them. Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell...even their beloved Joe Ingles remains in Utah. Kyle Korver, Jae Crowder, Dante Exum (which, by the way, dodged a bullet there)...they are all still Jazz core players. You are adding to that core a star point guard, someone whose contract expires when you are going to have to offer a max deal to Mitchell, and whose skill set is a hand in glove fit with coach Quin Snyder and company. As long as everyone is healthy, the doomsday scenario of an unprotected 2022 1st round pick (more on that in a moment) won’t happen.
The part that will make them pause, potentially?
The acknowledgement that Conley is better than anything they could get in free agency.
If they renounce all their free agents and allow Derrick Favors to walk out of his $16.9 million team option (which they probably will), Utah will have a little over $103 million committed to 10 players including Conley and an assumed picking up of Georges Niang’s team option. With the salary cap projected to be at $109 million, and Utah’s 1st and 2nd round picks taking up around $3 million of that remaining space, the Jazz would essentially be betting that they could be Mid Level Exception and veteran’s minimum players in free agency...not ticket holders in the 2019 free agency sweepstakes.
Utah would lose Derrick Favors, but they’d be able to have a very dynamic backcourt, and still have their full MLE to throw at a backup big or even a starting big if they don’t think Jae Crowder or Georges Niang is ready for primetime.
If Utah wants to have their cake and eat it too by keeping Derrick Favors and Joe Ingles ... well ... it gets tough. It can be done, but it’s ... woof.
Utah receives: Mike Conley
Memphis receives: Dante Exum, Jae Crowder, Kyle Korver, Raul Neto, Tony Bradley, 2020 1st round pick (protected 1-4 and 15-30 in 2020, protected 1-10 in 2021, unprotected 2022) and a 2023 2nd round pick.
That’s even if Memphis is okay with that. Memphis would get a strong veteran presence in Raul Neto and Jae Crowder, a past top 5 pick in Dante Exum, and a 1st round pick for next season for when Boston takes theirs. Tony Bradley is a potential young backup and they can waive Kyle Korver as he looks at retirement. This move would put Utah in a tough situation though as they would be sacrificing a lot of depth by omitting Favors or not waiving Favors to get it done.
In any case, something tells me Utah would like to get a third star on the roster around the NBA Draft so they can aggressively go after the second tier free agents with their full MLE while most of the league is fighting over the A listers. That way Utah can sneak away with some good depth while not having to be directly competing with other teams.