Mike Conley Continues To Fly Under The Radar


Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry, Tony Parker, Damian Lillard, Derrick Rose, Kyrie Irving. Although Mike Conley’s game may not be as flashy or as well-documented as any of those listed, he has been one of the most effective floor generals ever since the Memphis Grizzlies selected him 4th overall in the 2007 NBA Draft. Being the 4th pick comes with high expectations, but Conley didn’t enter the league ready to be a superstar.

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  • Conley is coming off a career year in which he averaged 17.2 points, 2.9 rebounds, 6.0 assists, and 1.5 steals per game.

    With Marc Gasol out of the lineup for 23 games last season, Conley was called to take on more of a scoring role, and he did so. This year he is averaging 16.2 points, 2.6 rebounds, 6.1 assists, and 1.2 steals per game. He’s been one of the few constants on a Grizzlies team that has made the playoffs four years in a row.

    But what is it that makes him so underrated? Is it because being on a small market team doesn’t correlate with national exposure? Perhaps it is because the Grizzlies offense is focused on Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. Or maybe it’s because he does a little bit of everything just well enough to make an impact. Look, he doesn’t have the explosiveness of Westbrook or D-Rose, but he can drive and finish in crunch time.

    In my eyes, he is everything a coach would want in a complete point guard; he just doesn’t get the credit like the other guys. Want proof? Let’s look at some footage and numbers in categories that define point guards these days:


    Even though the Grizzlies have Gasol and Randolph getting their number called on most game-ending plays, Conley has had his fair share of game-winning moments. Take a look at Conley making a clutch drive and finish against the Spurs in 2013:

    In the 2011 NBA Playoffs against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Conley drilled a game-tying 3-pointer with 3 seconds to go to send the game to overtime:

    The Grizzlies would go on to lose that game, but a clutch play nonetheless.


    As seen above, Conley can hit from deep. He certainly does not have the 3-point stroke of Stephen Curry or Damian Lillard, but you have to respect a career 37.5 FG % from behind the arc. Through 14 games this season he has a 46.7 FG % from 3-point land, good for 9th in the NBA.


    Now this is where Conley gets major respect in my book. He is brilliant when it comes to controlling the team’s pace. The Grizzlies function best when they slow things down. Part of that is because of Gasol and Randolph being the dominant bigs that they are. It doesn’t make much sense to hurry things up when the focal points of your offense are some of the slowest to get up and down the court.

    I’m not knocking Gasol or Randolph; it just is what it is. Conley keeps his teammates in their comfort zone and that is a great trait to have as a point guard. It’s probably one of the more overlooked aspects of a point guard’s game. Put Conley on a team like the Trail Blazers or Rockets and he would probably be a perennial All-Star due to his ability to run the giddy-up offense if he had to.


    Any time you’ve got a big man with great passing ability, the pick and roll game can be a deadly weapon. Marc Gasol is one of the best passing centers in the NBA, and the Grizzlies, especially Conley, take advantage of that luxury. Offensively, Conley possesses great penetration skills that allow him to get into the lane or create for his teammates.

    Here is a great example of a Conley-Gasol pick and roll with Gasol making a great interior pass after the feed from Conley:

    Conley has equally great handles dribbling right and left which makes it tougher on the defense to anticipate which way he may choose to attack off the pick or what kind of pass he may deliver.


    This is an aspect of Conley’s game where I would put him in the “elite” category. He is head and shoulders above Curry, Parker, and Irving. His job is simply to be a pest to the other team’s ballhandler and he does a fantastic job. He can disrupt the flow of an offense with his great individual and help defense.

    I mentioned earlier that he may not have the explosiveness of other point guards in the league, but he sure is quick enough to create deflections and steal opportunities. Over 142 regular season games played from the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons, Conley averaged 2.2 steals per game.

    The Grizzlies may have the best backcourt defensive tandem in Conley and Tony Allen leading the “grit n’ grind” charge. It is no secret that the NBA game lacks defense in some ways, but watch Conley play and you will see what a relentless defender he is.  His efforts were recognized in 2013 as he was named to the NBA’s All-Defensive Second Team. Expect no drop-off in this category from Mr. Conley.


    Not many point guards can have an impact on both ends of the floor like Conley does. He deserves respect and recognition and has grown incrementally each year as the primary shooter and ball-handler on a much-improved Grizzlies team.

    With another good showing in the playoffs, Conley can take a big step toward entering the Top 5 at his position. If it’s any consolation, back in April Grizzlies Head Coach Dave Joerger  called Mike Conley the kind of man a father would want his daughter to marry. More points for Conley.