The Utah Jazz got their point guard. After years of ups and downs at one of the most critical positions in basketball, the Jazz finally landed a star to guide the ship in Mike Conley. It was one of the biggest, if not the biggest, trades in franchise history, and it’s got Jazz fans buzzing for the start of the 2019-20 NBA season.
With all that we know, and the squad being set for next season, what can Jazz fans expect from Mike Conley? We brought in an expert to help us gauge expectations and really understand what type of a player and person Mike Conley is. Here is a Q&A with Joe Mullinax, Site Manager at Grizzly Bear Blues, SB Nation’s Memphis Grizzlies blog:
After 12 seasons with the Memphis Grizzlies, how much more does Mike Conley have left in the tank?
Conley bucks the trend of smaller guards that struggle as they age. He posted some of the best offensive numbers of his career last season, and has a variety of skills on that end of the floor that should be very exciting to Utah fans. From the three to the floater, his mastery of the pick and roll to his quick hesitation moves and finishes at the rim, he has really improved as a scorer and should (in theory) be a perfect match next to Donovan Mitchell on that end. Defensively he may struggle a bit as he ages, but as long as health isn’t an issue his ability both on and off the ball should more than negate that.
After seemingly giving his all for the Grizzlies team, organization, and fan base, what do you think he can provide to a Jazz team that is poised for their best season of this decade?
Veteran leadership, and playoff experience. People like to conveniently forget that the Grizzlies, prior to the last two down seasons, made the playoffs seven straight years. Conley has played in 56 playoff games in his career, making him the biggest combination of postseason experience and importance (sorry Jeff Green and Thabo Sefolosha) on the roster. He will be a steady hand, a clutch performer who has been through wars with the Spurs with Kawhi and been the better player for stretches of time, and with the Warriors at the peak of Steph Curry. He hasn’t had a chance to be that playoff level of player the last two seasons. He will cherish it, and run with it, in Utah.
Fresh off a career-high 21 points per game last season, how did you see his game evolve last year and what made him so successful as an individual player?
His ability to build his game as his career has gone on. He’s never been fast, but he is quick off the dribble and has developed multiple moves off that hesitation and go first step. He has never been a dominant athletic force, but he has an uncanny way of finding space and using it to his advantage, both on the perimeter off of screens and in the pick and roll with bigs like Jonas Valanciunas and (of course) Marc Gasol. He finds new levels to go to with offensive skills, and that will translate to the Jazz due to the talent assembled there.
Who is Mike Conley the person? What are some of the best things you have seen him do off the court?
This is the best thing about Conley - he is a better man than he is a basketball player. He was extremely active as a philanthropist, helping at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and donating to Sickle Cell treatment at local hospitals. He has never been called for a technical foul throughout his NBA career (one was rescinded). I could go on and on about the quality of person Conley is.
How do you think Mike Conley can help mentor Donovan Mitchell, in all aspects as a professional basketball player?
He can alleviate some of the pressure in terms of being looked to to create offense not only for himself, but for others. Mitchell is a solid facilitator, but he cannot be asked to consistently carry the load alone. Mike will help bear that burden and then some, as Conley is still a top-30 NBA player and is capable of taking over games for stretches himself. In Utah, Mike doesn’t have to be the man - that’s Donovan. We always believed that Mike was the 2nd or 3rd best player on a title contender. We now will see if that’s true - Conley will get to be a key supporter, which should make all the difference for Mitchell.
If you could pick one thing that Jazz fans can look forward to most in Mike Conley, what would it be?
This isn’t a trade where you hold your nose as your favorite team acquires a player that will help you compete for a championship but he may be a questionable fit. Mike will thrive in that locker room from the beginning. He’s a terrific teammate and man, and will make the Jazz have even better chemistry than they already do. Utah gave up a significant amount of flexibility and assets for Conley, but it was well worth it if the goal is to try to make the Finals. The Jazz won’t just be better on the court - they will be off of it as well, and that chemistry/leadership often makes the difference in close playoff series.
Special shoutout to Joe from helping us out. You can follow him on Twitter at @JoeMullinax and find more of his words at GrizzlyBearBlues.com
Here’s Conley’s top 10 plays of the season last year to get you stoked as well, just for fun.