The second domino in Utah has finally fallen.
After trading All-World center Rudy Gobert to the Minnesota
Timberwolves for a league-shifting pick package, the Jazz followed
suit by trading star guard Donovan Mitchell
to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Three unprotected first-round
picks, two unprotected pick swaps and a multi-player package
headlined by Collin Sexton was enough for the team to officially
set off its rebuild.
The stars are gone, but there are vets still on the roster. Per
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the Jazz aren't opposed to moving them
if they're given more picks, young players or (ideally) both.
Chief among those vets is point guard Mike Conley.
Conley is coming off one of his healthier campaigns, appearing
in 70 games (72) for the first time since the 2018-19 season.
Conley was steady, averaging 13.7 points and 5.3 assists (1.7
turnovers) while posting a 57.2% True Shooting percentage. He
oscillated between diagnosing defenses as a pick-and-roll threat
and spreading the floor for Mitchell to attack.
Coinciding with Mitchell's ascension, he's become more of a
spacer than a focal point over the past two seasons. Conley's
three-point rate — the percentage of shot attempts that come from
deep — has hit career-high levels over the past two seasons (52.3).
He's drained 41% of his threes on 6.1 attempts per game during that
stretch; only three other players — Anfernee Simons, Zach LaVine
and some Steph Curry guy — have hit 40% of their threes on 6 or
more attempts on average (min. 100 games).
Don't let the off-ball focus fool you: Conley's blend of pull-up
shooting, court vision and ambidexterity still makes him a valuable
playmaker. Over the past two seasons, possessions featuring a
Conley-led ball screen has generated 1.03 points per possession
(PPP), a mark sandwiched between Damian Lillard (1.032 PPP) and
James Harden (1.023 PPP).
Even at this stage, playing drop coverage against Conley is a
Because Conley doesn't have the same burst anymore, he doesn't
get two feet in the paint very often. His rim rate — the percentage
of shot attempts coming inside of 3 feet — has dropped in each of
the past five seasons. Only 7.5% of his attempts came at the rim
last year, easily a career low.
He's been able to counter that by sprinkling in short pull-ups
and floaters with either hand, but the threshold for bending
defenses with those shots is pretty high.
Conley remains sound defensively. He's dutiful when navigating
screens and still does a good job of reconnecting with
ball-handlers. This might be my favorite stat find of the summer:
Per Second Spectrum, among 165 players that defended at least 300
drives last season, only one player — Chicago Bulls rookie Ayo
Dosunmu (13.97%) — was "blown by" at a lower rate than Conley
There's context to be added, like who Conley was directly
matched up with, but that's a "he's typically in the right spot"
stat if I've seen one.
Of course, Conley isn't perfect. There's only so much he can do
as a shot-contester, even against his position, because of his
size. While he's still a good screen navigator, his recovery speed
isn't what it once was. If a screen nails him, you could be in some
Overall, Conley is still a good starting point guard with a game
that can complement a high-usage star. If the Jazz are truly open
to moving him, teams should come calling.
With a vet like Conley, finding a contending team for him is the
likely priority. That makes trade talks tough since so many of the
top teams either have (All-) star point guards already (Golden
State, Phoenix, Milwaukee, etc.), younger players they're already
invested in (Philadelphia, Denver), or vets they're okay with
The Dallas Mavericks may be the most realistic suitor within
this lens. Conley could certainly slot into the Jalen Brunson-sized
void that was opened this summer. Tim Hardaway Jr.'s contract
($19.6 million in 2022-23) is enough to start the conversation, but
you'd have to wonder if a middleground could be found from
The Mavericks owe a first round pick to the Knicks (top-10
protected through 2025) that you'd assume would convey this year,
but that's off the table. Would the Mavericks be willing to throw
in a later first-round pick instead? If not, is there a young piece
on the roster (hello, Josh Green) that they'd
be willing to sweeten the pot with in lieu of the pick? It's hard
I'd be intrigued by a trade centered around a Conley-D'Angelo
Russell swap if the Minnesota Timberwolves were game.
(I don't think I'd be game if I were them. It'd have to be
Conley and another player or two — Rudy Gay and Nickeil
Alexander-Walker would get you there — since the Jazz are
hard-capped. Beyond that, I'm sure they would've worked to include
a Russell-Conley swap into the Gobert trade if there was real
interest in that regard.)
There's been smoke, then fire, then smoke, then fog,
then more smoke around Conley being featured in
a trade with the Los Angeles Lakers for Russell Westbrook. Conley
would certainly vibe alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis; I
just don't know how likely it is that Westbrook is traded at this
point, even if it might be best for everyone involved.
If it's not contender-or-bust for Conley, there are a couple of
lottery teams I'd like to see throw their hats in the ring for
Depending on how you feel about the Kevin Porter Jr. point guard
experiment, something I had my eye on heading into last season, there
could be room for a half-season of Conley stability in the starting
backcourt. Having a consistently-good decision-maker alongside
Jalen Green could foster easier development for him.
There are things Green (or Porter, for that matter) could learn
from Conley. My mind immediately goes to how patient Conley is
against drop, and how good he is at snaking ball-screens and
bending defenses. Green showed growth as his rookie campaign went
on, but there's still room for improvement.
There's even a number for it. Per Second Spectrum, the Rockets
generated a little over 0.67 points per possession (PPP) on trips
featuring a ball-screen that Green snaked.
Considering Eric Gordon's salary would likely be needed to make
this work, a third team would make some sense here. An interesting
framework would be sending Conley to Houston, Eric Gordon to New
Orleans (I know, I know) and a combination of KJ Martin (if he
still wants a trade from
Houston), Kira Lewis and more salary filler to Utah.
- If Bradley Beal wants an even more dependable guard next to him
than Monte Morris, Conley would make some sense in Washington. At
minimum, the Wizards certainly have enough pieces to consolidate. I
still don't know what to make of their forward room.
- In light of the Lonzo Ball injury news, I can definitely see
the use for a table-setter in Chicago. The Bulls may be content
with Goran Dragic filling that void; beyond that, I'm not sure they
could make the money work without getting ride of a core
- The Clippers would've been a fun team in here before the John Wall signing. I guess
they could still be a dark horse if things don't work out, but I
wouldn't bet on it.