When the Jazz traded for Mike Conley two summers ago, they had a good idea of what they would be getting. A tough, seasoned vet, smart, scoring point guard with playoff experience and an awesome hair-style. Expectations were mega high for Conley in Utah when he arrived last fall. Jazz fans were already fantasizing about the Western Conference Finals, and rightfully so. With a new-look roster and a bolstered offensive attack, things were looking great for the Jazz approaching the season. As we all know, 2019-20 didn’t meet those expectations. It ended up being one of Conley’s worst seasons of his career percentage wise, and ended with a heart-breaking miss that capped off a blown 3-1 lead to the Nuggets in the first round.
From opening night last season, Mike Conley just never really looked like Mike Conley. He had some good games and played well for stretches, but overall he just never seemed to really be that player that the Jazz traded assets for and were paying $30 Million+ a year for. A few nagging injuries, a new team, new coach, etc. all definitely contributed to this. Fast forward a few months following that missed buzzer-beater, and things are looking much different.
Through 11 games so far this season, Mike Conley is looking like Mike Conley. He’s improved in nearly every statistical category significantly compared to last season. Three-point shooting wise, Conley is having the best year so far in his 12 NBA seasons. He’s shooting a scorching 43 percent from three, which is by far the highest of any other season of his. He’s shot above 40 percent from deep in just 2 other seasons, so this is a nice little treat we are getting in his second season in Utah. With 34 threes made, he trails only Donovan Mitchell by 3 for most on the Jazz team. He’s shot 50 percent or better in 7 of the Jazz’s 11 games so far. This three-point shooting flamethrower that Conley has equipped right now is crazy. He set a career-high with 7 made threes a few weeks ago against the Clippers, in a brilliant 33-point performance in which he took over the entire game.
Some of the plays Mike Conley made in this game were just insane. I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love the way that Conley plays. Everything about it; the way he dribbles, the way he moves, the way he shoots, they way he celebrates, it’s just beautiful. I’ve always been a sucker for left-handed basketball players, I swear their shots just look so much better. This game against the Clips showcases Conley’s scoring ability, and really what he’s been doing for years and years in this league.
While this hot three-point shooting from Conley might not be totally sustainable, his fit in the offense and the groove he has found is already making a huge impact on this season. Just watching him play this year compared to last, he seems so much more fluid, and simply put - he’s just making shots. When he’s been on the floor, the Jazz are usually widening the lead. His plus-minus is a total +52 on the season, which is 2nd on the Jazz behind Jordan Clarkson. When Mike Conley is shooting like this, he is not just directly impacting points on the board. It makes life so much easier for the other Jazz scorers, creating more space for Donovan Mitchell to drive and kick, or opening up more shots from Bojan Bogdanovic. Conley is also leading the Jazz in assists, and has done an awesome job leading the offense and creating shots for his teammates. On December 28 he came one assist away from becoming the first Jazz player in over 10 years to drop a regular season triple-double. In this game he also helped lead the Jazz to their first win on the road in OKC in LITERALLY FOREVER.
When the Jazz traded for Mike Conley two summers ago, they knew what they were getting. It’s taken a little bit of time, but he’s been exactly what the Jazz need him to be so far this season. If he can continue to play at this level and keep shooting the ball well, it will do wonders for the Jazz and help into the next tier of contenders in the Western Conference.