Mike Conley Trade Doesn't Make Jazz Western Conference Contenders


On Tuesday, the Memphis Grizzlies traded Mike Conley to the Utah Jazz for Grayson AllenKyle KorverJae Crowder, and two NBA Draft picks. After shipping off Marc Gasol during the middle of last season, and likely committing to Ja Morant with the second overall pick, it’s no surprise the Grizzlies moved on from Conley.

A top-tier point guard in the league when healthy, Conley is expected to make an immediate impact on a team that’s made the playoffs the past three seasons, but hasn’t made it out of the first round the last two. The acquisition of Conley provides Donovan Mitchell with his best backcourt sidekick since coming into the league in 2017. With Conley and Mitchell at the 1 and 2, the Grizzlies now boast one of the better backcourts in the NBA on paper. But while Conley will certainly improve the team, his arrival won’t be substantial enough to make the Jazz true contenders.

Utah went 50-32 last season, which was good enough to finish fifth in the Western Conference. Although it excelled in the regular season, it was defeated handily by the Houston Rockets in the first round, 4-1. The Jazz were also swept by the Warriors in the 2016 Western Conference semis.

Conley provides something the Jazz have lacked over this stretch: a true scoring threat at point guard. Although Ricky Rubio is an excellent passer, he’s never averaged more than 13 points per game and his field-goal percentage constantly hovers around 40%. Conley will do better than that, while still facilitating the ball in a manner that isn’t too much of a drop off from Rubio and also committing fewer turnovers.

Conley and Mitchell will provide a nice scoring ouput from the backcourt, but who will the Jazz rely on outside of them? Besides Rudy Gobert, who was second in scoring average per game on the team last season, the highest following scorers were Joe Ingles, Rubio, Jae Crowder, and Derrick Favors. Even after the Conley trade, the Jazz lack the depth and playmakers to be true contenders in a strong Western Conference. They are better now than they were, but can they beat the Golden State Warriors, Denver Nuggets, Portland Trail Blazers or Los Angeles Lakers come playoff time? Probably not.

Look, Conley and Mitchell are a nice one-two punch, and Conley on the pick-and-roll with Gobert is going to be hard to stop, but that doesn’t make up for the rest of their roster. They’ll be a playoff team, yet the acquisition of Conley doesn’t push them over the top. There are still a few teams in the East still better than them, much less the West.

If they roll into the 2019-2020 season with this roster, the Jazz will remain a playoff team, but not a true contender.