The Jazz pulled off the most predictable trade of pre-draft season, adding an all-star-caliber point guard in Mike Conley to their bare-bones backcourt. Utah sent Grayson Allen, Kyle Korver, Jae Crowder, pick No. 23 in the 2019 NBA Draft, and a protected 2020 first-rounder to the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for the ultimate floor general and veteran point guard.
The trade legitimizes a Jazz team that has always been one piece short of elevating itself to the Western Conference’s elite. Since Utah drafted Donovan Mitchell two summers ago, they have been a two-man show, with an act split between the physics-defying guard and their rim-protecting Frenchman, Rudy Gobert. With those two, Utah was already the proverbial team no West opponent wanted to face in the playoffs. Now, they’ve added the best possible help by bringing in a battle-tested veteran point guard with miles on miles of basketball left in the tank.
The Jazz are going for it, and there’s no better time to do it than now.
When you survey the Western Conference, it only makes sense the Jazz go for gold. The Warriors will almost certainly not win an NBA championship next season — not with potential season-ending injuries to both Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, if both even re-sign in free agency. Golden State’s stranglehold on the Western Conference throne has loosened, and there is no team in the conference that is a sure bet to replace them, Lakers included.
Under coach Quin Snyder, Utah has perennially been one of the NBA’s best defensive teams, but they’ve lacked an offensive playmaker outside of Mitchell. That has allowed defenses to key in on the young guard, leading to back-to-back inefficient shooting seasons. Those defenses will have to figure something else out now. Mitchell has some help.
What more can I say about my city! You guys made me the man I am today! Memphis is home. Always! ..Time for another chapter! Excited to give all I have to The Jazz and the city of Utah! #LetsGetIt #GodsPlan #takenote— Mike Conley (@mconley11) June 19, 2019
Conley is an upgrade from Ricky Rubio. He can create his own shot and is a reliable perimeter shooter, especially in crunch time. He’s not as pesky as Rubio, but Conley is still an elite defender and as smart a player as you’ll find in the league. For a player like Mitchell, who recorded the NBA’s seventh-highest usage percentage last season, this is a breath of fresh air. He no longer has to create everything for Utah’s offense. It will be an adjustment, but one that benefits Mitchell in the long run.
The trade isn’t perfect. Conley hasn’t played 80 games in a single season since 2012-13 and has a history of foot trouble. The Jazz will have to manage his load similar to the way Toronto managed Kawhi Leonard’s this season. Conley will also be 32 years old when this season begins. With two years left on his contract, this was a move for a Utah team that clearly prioritizes right now over the distant future. The Jazz also had to give up key rotation players and draft picks to land their new point guard.
Memphis, per sources, will listen to offers on the first-rounder (23rd) acquired in the Conley deal.— David Aldridge (@davidaldridgedc) June 19, 2019
And, protections on the future first from Utah:
-Pick will convey to Memphis is 2020 or 2021 if it falls between 8-14
-if it doesn’t, protected 1-6 in ‘22,, 1-3 in ‘23, 1 in ‘24.
But scared money don’t make no money. The present is all anyone has, and, presently, the Jazz are in position to compete for their deepest playoff run yet. Utah went for it, ensuring they get Mitchell some help as he enters the early prime of his promising career.
At the end of the day, that’s all their fans can ask.