On July 6, 2019, the Utah Jazz traded Jae Crowder, Grayson Allen, Kyle Korver, and two first-round picks for Mike Conley. This was one of the biggest blockbuster trades in franchise history. Now, two years later, Conley chose to re-sign with the Jazz on a three-year deal. One might think that this would be universally seen as a win for Utah, but there is significant disagreement among Jazz fans about Conley and whether he is worth such a contract.
There has been some confusion on the exact dollar amount of Conley’s contract, though, in recent days, further details have been made public. According to Spotrac.com, “Mike Conley signed a 3 year / $68,040,000 contract with the Utah Jazz, including $58,000,000 guaranteed, and an annual average salary of $22,680,000.”
Conley is worth every cent of that contract. Here’s why:
Mike Conley is one of the most impactful players in basketball.
While Conley’s 16.2 points and 6.0 assists per game are nice numbers, they don’t fully demonstrate his impact on a game. With Mike Conley on the court last season, the Utah Jazz outscored teams by 17.7 points per 100 possessions. That’s an elite number. For reference, the Jazz outscored teams by 16.1 points per 100 possessions with Rudy Gobert on the court.
Speaking of Rudy Gobert, a frequent argument against Conley’s impressive impact is that he shares the court with Gobert for most of his minutes. That’s true, and it’s a valid thought, as Gobert always makes his teammate’s stats look better. It’s important to note, though, that the Jazz, with Conley on and Rudy Gobert off, outscored opponents by 12.1 points per 100 possessions. Interestingly, with Gobert on the court and Conley off, the Jazz were +12.6. Almost identical. Conley and Gobert are both capable of impacting the game in massive ways, independent of each other.
With Conley on the court, Utah’s offense scored 119.6 points per 100 possessions, which would be good for the best offense of all time. Utah’s defense with Conley on the court allowed only 101.9 points per 100 possessions. For reference, the best defense in the league last year was Utah’s, which allowed 107.5. Both the offense and the defense are historically dominant with Mike Conley running the show.
Star players are a rare commodity.
The Utah Jazz have had exactly 15 players ever named to an All-Star team. Fifteen. In team history. Since Deron Williams was traded away in 2011, there have been only four Utah Jazz All-Stars. Star players are scarce in the league and even more so for Utah.
Remember what happened last time an All-Star left the Jazz in free agency? Number 20 jerseys were burned throughout Utah. Fans still refuse to say his name correctly to this day. Losing a player of that caliber can be deadly to franchise hopes. Likewise, retaining players of that caliber can be critical for a title race. Jazz fans should be thrilled that Mike Conley chose to remain in Utah.
Conley’s contract is a discount for the Jazz.
With free agency coming to a close, and most big names signed, we can compare the contracts of other star guards.
Numbers via Spotrac.com
Conley’s contract comes out looking very favorable. Both Kyle Lowry and Chris Paul are older than Conley, signed for significantly more overall money, and have more money guaranteed. DeMar DeRozan is a year younger than Conley but is also known league-wide as a less valuable player, and he’ll receive $28.3 million per year, while Conley will only make $22.7 million.
Spencer Dinwiddie is a bit of an outlier among these names. He is by far the youngest and least-proven of this group. He has never been named an All Star. He has only played in six playoff games over his entire career. He also missed all but three games of last season due to a partial ACL tear. Even so, he still received a contract that is surprisingly comparable to Mike Conley’s.
Star guards are hard to come by, and NBA front offices know that. So when a player like Kyle Lowry, Chris Paul, or Mike Conley is available, they are offered gaudy contracts. Conley certainly could have demanded more money, more years, or greater guarantees, but he didn’t. He agreed with the Jazz on this team-friendly deal immediately when free agency began. Teams that want to contend for titles often need stars to take less money than they might be worth. Mike Conley did just that.
To recap: Mike Conley is one of the best and most important players in the NBA. He is a rare type of player, and even rarer for the Utah Jazz. He agreed to a contract that is significantly lower than his market value.
This signing was a major win for the Utah Jazz. One of the best contracts the franchise has ever signed with a player. Smile, Jazz fans. Mike Conley is here to stay.