It’s been about 8 months since the Utah Jazz traded for Mike Conley and the team and fans have gone through ups and downs since it happened. Off the court has seen a lot of ups. Conley has been a good teammate and has seemingly embraced the new team as “Mountain Mike.” Jazz fans were excited because they had seemingly found that missing star that could help get them over the top into championship contention.
But on-court it’s been a lot of downs.
Conley started the regular season in a serious slump starting 3/20 in his first four games. That start created a narrative that has followed Conley this entire season.
There have been flashes of solid play but Conley hasn’t done enough to shake the narrative that “he’s lost a step” or that “he’s not a good fit.”
To go alongside Conley’s rough start, Joe Ingles coming off the bench was just as disastrous. Ingles, who everyone pegged as a possible 6th man of the year when it was announced he’d come off the bench, was anything but.
Playing without a rolling big neutralized a lot of what makes Ingles so good and relegated him to an iso player, something that goes against Ingles entire style of play.
The Jazz looked like they were in the middle of the most disappointing season in team history.
When Mike Conley went down with injury, Joe Ingles was moved back into the starting lineup and everything changed for Ingles. Playing alongside the starters, but more specifically Rudy Gobert, Ingles looked like himself again. Even with that problem seemingly solved the bench for Utah continued its horrible play.
A few weeks later Justin Zanik and Dennis Lindsey moved quickly. Just before Christmas they made a flurry of decisive moves. They traded Dante Exum to Cleveland for Jordan Clarkson and they waived Jeff Green. On the court Quin Snyder moved Tony Bradley to the backup center. All of a sudden Utah looked like a different team, and their play improved as well.
Except for a half-game return where Conley re-aggravated his hamstring injury, the Jazz went on tear losing only 4 games in his absence. Donovan Mitchell also looked like a star in the primary playmaker role.
There was a grain of salt to all of this, though. Despite a nice win against the Clippers most of the teams they were playing were below .500.
Mike Conley has now played 7 games since his return coming off the bench and the Jazz are 4-3 in that span. The last three games have been disappointing losses against teams missing key players. But has it been Mike Conley’s fault?
His three point shot is struggling again at around 20%, but in those 7 games he’s shooting 44% from the field. He’s also has a positive net rating in that span. Some of those losses can also be contributed to things outside of Conley’s control. The Jazz have other questions right now like can Tony Bradley be on the floor against spread offenses?
Another thing to consider is when Mike Conley was starting he was a big part of big wins against Milwaukee, Philadelphia etc.
By the way, the trade deadline is in less than a week.
That’s the riddle for Utah. Do all these different considerations point to a trade? Or do they move Mike Conley to the starting lineup and hope they figure it out come playoff time? It’s going to be very interesting trade deadline for Utah whether they make a move or not. Either way it’s clear that figuring out the Mike Conley riddle is the only way to championship contention this season.