Memphis Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley is unarguably the top PG available in next month’s free agent class. It is no secret or surprise that he will be sought after by a number of teams around the league looking to upgrade their starting PG spot. A career 13.6 PPG scorer and 5.6 APG passer, Conley has spent his entire nine-year career with the Grizzlies. Despite not being named to an All-Star team, Conley has established himself as one of the best two-way PGs in the league.
Conley was only able to suit up for 56 games this season after hurting his Achilles in early March. He was ruled out for the rest of the season shortly before the start of the playoffs, where the seventh seeded Grizzlies were swept in the first round by the second seeded San Antonio Spurs. The Grizzlies have been a playoff staple since the 2010-2011 season, however the team has failed to advance past Western Conference Finals. It isn’t too outlandish to declare that this current Grizzlies core has already peaked, which is why I believe Conley should look to change teams this offseason.
Marc Gasol, now 31, is still one of the top Centers in the league, but like Conley, Gasol is also coming off of a season-ending injury. Zach Randolph, is still a solid contributor and a threat to go for double-double on any given night and Tony Allen, is still one of the top perimeter defenders in the NBA, but both are 34 and aren’t getting any younger. With potentially as many as eight other upcoming free agents, not to mention a new head coach in David Fizdale, this is a team could look significantly different next season. Conley may not want to return to Memphis with so much uncertainty surrounding the roster. He may want to play for a team with more roster stability.
The Western Conference has been absolutely unrelenting for the past decade plus. However, if this season is any indication of what is to come, the conference may no longer be as deep as it’s been in the past several years. The bad news is the Western Conference may be more top-heavy now than it’s been in quite some time. It’s likely that the Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, and Oklahoma City Thunder (if Kevin Durant opts to return) will remain a class above all the other west contenders. With that in mind, Conley may realize that his best chance of winning a championship short of joining one of those teams, may be to join the Eastern Conference. Conley may be the missing piece that can elevate some Eastern Conferences teams such as the New York Knicks or the Indiana Pacers to playoff or contender status.
While the benefits of remaining in Memphis (extra year, roughly an extra $32 million, familiarity with the city of Memphis) will likely attract Conley as he is making his free agency decision, if winning a championship is his top priority, leaving the Grizzlies may be his best option. He’s had a great nine-year run and the Grit ‘n Grind mantra that the Grizzlies have employed has resulted in some good basketball over the last several years, but it may be time for Conley to take his talents elsewhere and maximize his true potential while he is still in his prime.
Spark Sports NBA Analyst