Mike Conley Would Be an Asset For the San Antonio Spurs
By Ian Smith
Mike Conley would be a welcome addition to the San Antonio Spurs. As Tony Parker’s play starts to decline, the Spurs would be wise to invest in the talented Conley.
Injuries forced Conley to miss the Memphis Grizzlies’ playoff series with the Spurs, and Conley’s presence would have definitely made that series more difficult for San Antonio.
Conley possesses a lot of strengths that would benefit San Antonio. Throughout his career, he’s been a consistently solid perimeter shooter. Every year he has hoisted at least 100 attempts from downtown, and he’s never shot less than 36% from beyond the arc. His last 8 seasons fit both those criteria.
Where Conley struggled more than usual last season was his shooting inside the arc. His midrange shooting suffered, as he shot just under 38% outside the paint but inside the 3-point line.
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Conley has the quickness to get to the rim, as evidenced by the fact that he shoots the vast majority of his shots from the painted area. The downside is that his finishing ability around the hoop lags compared some of his other point guard peers.
Conley shot just under 49% on shots in the paint. Stephen Curry shot about 62% on those shots. Chris Paul shot about 57%. Russell Westbrook shot about 54%. Kyrie Irving shot about 51%.
In Conley’s 9 year NBA career, he’s never averaged 7 assists per game for a season. Guys like Rajon Rondo, John Wall, and Paul routinely average double-digit assist totals year after year.
His numbers begin to label him as more of a second-tier point guard in the NBA. If Conley is a top 10 point guard in the NBA, he’s certainly on the outer edge of that exclusive group.
For his career, he ranks a mediocre 18th for active players in assist percentage. He has spent years orchestrating one of the few remaining inside-outside offensive attacks in the league. The Grizzlies grind the game to a halt, and rely on the bruising interior play of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol to score points.
The Spurs aren’t known as a fast-paced team, and it would seemingly be an easy transition for Conley to make.
A strength of Conley’s is his even-keeled approach to facilitation. He lead the NBA with a 4.07 AST/TO ratio last season. During his career, he’s never fallen into the bad habit of being careless with the basketball. Among active point guards, only George Hill and Paul commit fewer turnovers per 100 possessions than Conley.
Simply put, Conley is an extremely steady option. He’s never going to put up staggering point or assist totals, but he’ll regularly deliver an output of about 15 points and 6 assists. Compared to what the Spurs got from Parker last season, that looks like a significant upgrade without even considering the fact that Conley will be 29 at the start of next season. Parker is 34, and doesn’t look like he has much time left as a viable starting point guard in the NBA.
Conley is also a defensive upgrade to Parker. He made the NBA All-Defensive Second Team in 2013, and helped patrol the perimeter alongside Tony Allen for years in Memphis, helping them become one of the most feared defensive teams in the league at the height of their powers.
This match looks intriguingly compatible. Conley is used to operating in a slowed-down offense. In the 8 seasons that Conley started over 50 games at point guard, his team has had a below average number of possessions per 48 minutes relative to the rest of the league in 7 of them, including the last 6 seasons.
His offenses haven’t been known for pushing a frenetic pace, and San Antonio played at one of the slowest paces in the league last season. The Grizzlies teams he’s played on have been predicated on tough defense, which is what the Spurs like to establish as the mission statement for their team identity.
The Spurs should have the cap space to afford him, and he’d be a great addition to an already talented roster. With him starting at point guard, the Spurs would remain a championship contender next season.
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Conley running the point in San Antonio is a fascinating option, and if the Spurs have their sights set on him, he’d be another important piece added via free agency.