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Have Patience with Mike Conley

It paid off with Ricky Rubio

Mike Conley is not off to a good start donning a Utah Jazz jersey. And I’m sure he’d be the first to admit that. His shot isn’t falling and his timing is off. Rather than being the backcourt help Donovan Mitchell needed, he’s had arguably the worst 7 game stretch of his career. And that’s ok. What matters is that he’s rolling when the playoff race gets tight and the Jazz want to push for a conference final trip next Spring.

It might be easy to forget, but Ricky Rubio was equally as bad when he first started in Utah as well. His shot was awful and his turnovers were atrocious. And then he got comfortable in a new system with new players and we all remember how his first year ended. But look at how Rubio’s first 14 games went:

  • 13.6 points
  • 37.1 FG%
  • 25.8 3P%
  • 3.8 TOV

Even 46 games into the season he was only at 38% FG and 29% from 3. It was terrible. But again, he got it rolling and put up a triple double in the playoffs. Which is more memorable, his amazing streak to end the year or the poor start? I’ll help you out with this image:

And guess what, this isn’t just true of Ricky Rubio and Mike Conley. They aren’t the only point guards to struggle on a new team after several years with their old one. Here are some other examples as well:

  • Chris Paul: When he went to Houston, he had some major adjustments to make. His first 6 games with the Rockets were terrible. He shot just 38.6% from the field and was trying to understand his role next to James Harden. And he figured it out to the tune of nearly knocking of the Warriors in the Finals.
  • Kyrie Irving: He started off pretty slow in Boston as well. Shooting 42.9% on his field goals wasn’t terrible, but shooting just 31.9% from 3 definitely was. The Celtics were winning ball games, but not thanks to Kyrie’s inefficiencies.
  • Kemba Walker: Another Celtic. Did you know he’s only shot 40% from the field so far this year? And that’s on 19 shots per game! Or that his assist to turnover ration is just 1.7? Didn’t think so, because for whatever reason he isn’t getting blasted by the media.
  • Chauncey Billups: The year before heading back to Denver, Billups had a career year with Detroit. His shooting splits for the Pistons were 45/40/93, which is obviously pretty elite. At 31 years old, he still had some big games left in him. When he was traded back to Denver at the beginning of the next season, his first 12 games were pretty rough going 39/35/88. But he righted that ship and made the All Star game.
  • Andre Miller: Signed to be a veteran compliment to LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy for a really good Blazers team, Miller struggled from the floor at the start of the season. Ten games into the season he’d hit just 38.9% of his shots and only 18% of his 3’s. He eventually had a respectable season for a 50-win team.
  • Kyle Lowry: When Lowry moved to the Toronto Raptors, it probably wasn’t love at first sight for Raptors fans. He had a 12 game stretch very early in the season where his shooting splits were well below his averages at 36/30/78. That’s now how his season ended and that’s definitely not how his time with the Raptors has gone as well.

You get the picture? Now, I understand that Conley’s drop has been more than these guys. I mean, goodness, he’s only shooting 32% from the floor and 28% from 3. That’s horrific and there’s no way around it. But what’s more likely, that he stays at those numbers or that he gets back to his career averages of 44% and 37%? That he continues to turn the ball over almost 4 times per36 or that he gets down to his career average of 2.2?

Mike didn’t suddenly forget how to shoot or pass a basketball after a lifetime of doing it at a ridiculously high level. And not for one second am I buying that he’s old and washed after having one of his absolute best seasons just 1 year ago. So just in case you’ve forgotten how gifted this man is at basketball, here’s an 8 minute sample of some of his highlights from just last season.

I’m not going to sit here and argue that Conley has been good this season. Because he hasn’t been anywhere close. But I will say to have patience with a veteran point guard that’s on only the 2nd team of his career. Every point guard needs to time adjust and Mike is no different. He’ll become that vital piece that helps the Jazz reach their ceiling this season just like we all hoped for when the front office traded for him.

Just give him some time, let him learn, and watch him ball.