Where Will Mike Conley Jr. Be Playing Next Season?
When it comes down to it, luck is still one of the most important commodities in the NBA. Whether it’s a fortuitous fourth bounce off the rim in a game winning shot or a preposterous gifting of the No. 2 pick in the draft, it pays to be lucky.
Memphis finished the season with just the eighth worst record, but will still have the second-best selection in the upcoming 2019 NBA draft. The Grizzlies seem poised to take Murray State’s Ja Morant, an athletic point guard with the chops to be a star at the professional level.
Pairing Morant with Jarrett Jackson Jr. would usher in a new era in Memphis. As such, the team’s front office will soon have to make some hard choices about the old guard. What happens next with Mike Conley Jr. is particularly intriguing.
Conley will turn 32 in October, and is owed roughly $32 and $34 million dollars in each of the next two seasons. Regardless, he is perhaps the most underrated player in the league, and the sort of savvy, cerebral point guard that any club would want.
For teams on the bubble, he would be an immense get. This begs the question, where will Mike Conley Jr. be playing next season?
The Los Angeles Lakers
The Anthony Davis to LA dream hangs in the balance. The Lakers did jump from No. 11 to No. 4 in the draft lottery, but it’s unclear how valuable that pick will actually be. New Orleans landed a shot at Zion Williamson, and now everything is different.
What has not changed, however, is the Lakers desperate need to overhaul the team’s roster. LeBron isn’t getting any younger, and it is hard to imagine anything but animosity and paranoia steaming from the young core in LA. The Lakers need a talent upgrade and they need it fast.
Mike Conley would be an excellent get for LA. He’s too seasoned to be intimidated by LeBron, and has the right vision and shooting to compliment James quite well. Conley is a master at keeping his teammates engaged and at their best.
This would be an expensive move for the Lakers, no doubt, but options a
re limited for a team essentially in a state of chaos. Snagging Conley from Memphis would be a fantastic way to start to steady the ship. (Or maybe the Lakers should trade LeBron. More on that here.)
The Indiana Pacers
Much has been written about the commendable season the Indiana Pacers put together this year. In the wake of a horrific injury to Victor Oladipo, the team doubled-down on hard-nosed basketball.
The Pacers have some truly exciting pieces, and when he returns to action, a bonafide star in Oladipo. Indiana, though, is not a free agent destination. This front office will need to be very proactive in finding talent to take the next step.
The point guard spot is by far the team’s biggest question mark. Conley would bring much needed postseason experience and his trademark knack for helping teammates play their best. His name was actually tied to the Pacers at the trade deadline, suggesting there may be a bit more smoke here than other destinations.
The Boston Celtics
What happens next for the Celtics is anyone’s guess. There’s a world where a Kyrie Irving-Anthony Davis nucleus dazzles fans at the Boston Garden for years. Likewise, Irving and Al Horford could both have played their final games in the Hub, with about a million other scenarios to consider in between.
The C’s won’t be headed for a full-blown rebuild, but rather an impromptu reload. If Uncle Drew walks, the club will need a high-level point guard, and fast. Terry Rozier seems wholly disinterested in being that person. If Al Horford resigns for a slightly longer team-friendly deal, a veteran like Conley would be an immense running mate.
The math here is next to impossible, but never say never. After the toxic season Boston just went through, surely president of basketball operations Danny Ainge will be looking to shuffle the deck. Conley is Irving’s opposite in just about every facet of leadership and personal style. Perhaps this is exactly what the Celtics need.
The San Antonio Spurs
Boston is one of the premier franchises in the NBA because the team embodies professionalism and class. San Antonio is right up there alongside the Celtics in this regard.
In the Spurs’ immense run of brilliance since the 1990s, the team has always leaned on players that are as under-stated off the court as they are dominant during a game. LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan both fit that bill, but they alone don’t hold a candle to previous iterations of the Spurs way.
In Mike Conley, San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich would have the perfect floor general. The younger Spurs players would thrive under the unspoken tutelage Conley offers, while the actually basketball product would soar to new heights. San Antonio needed a play-maker like Conley this postseason, and as a small market team like Indiana, needs to be very deliberate when star players are available.
But what if Mike Conley Jr. isn’t available?
The Memphis Grizzlies
A new chapter of Grizzlies basketball is about to commence. But how it all begins is certainly up in the air.
If there’s a team as intimately aware of Conley’s leadership and value as a veteran presence, it’s Memphis. He could be just the sort of player to help unlock Ja Morant’s potential.
The Grizzlies do kind of want to stink next season. Their 2020 first-round pick is top-six protected, or else it goes to Boston. Keeping Conley around, even as a mentor, could make them a bit too competitive.
Along with the above teams, Utah, Detroit, and a few other clubs should really consider picking up the phone and taking the temperature on Mike Conley’s status as a Grizzly. He truly is one of the most tantalizing players seemingly available.
Memphis would be excused, however, if they chose to retain Conley’s services. Since joining the team back in 2007, he’s meant everything to the Grizzlies. It’d be fitting if he was around to usher in whatever comes next.