Jensen: Mike Conley Trade Makes Jazz Instant Postseason Contender

Jun 19, 2019, 4:33 PM | Updated: May 29, 2020, 1:11 pm
(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)...
(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz entered the off-season determined to improve their roster after the disappointment of losing 4-1 to the Houston Rockets in the first round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs.

Mission accomplished.

The Jazz have agreed to trade Jae Crowder, Kyle Korver, Grayson Allen, the 23rd pick in Thursday’s draft and a future first round pick to the Memphis Grizzlies for Mike Conley. The deal won’t be made official until July 6.

The Jazz had enough cap space to be a player in free agency this off-season. Tobias Harris and D’Angelo Russell would have been likely targets. Instead of waiting and rolling the dice in free agency the Jazz made a move now to acquire the point guard they have targeted since the trade deadline.


I believe making a move for Mike Conley is the best move the Jazz could have made this off-season. Better than any realistic option in free agency. Here is why:

Perfect complement To Donovan Mitchell

Donovan Mitchell has been asked to do a lot in his first two years in the NBA. Too much. The team has depended too much on Donovan for offensive production. Now they add a terrific and efficient offensive player at the point guard position to pair with Donovan and take pressure off the future superstar to carry such a load.

Conley is a terrific offensive player who can shoot from 3 and finish at the rim. His floater is difficult to defend. He is a career 30 percent 3-point shooter.

He’s a terrific pick-and-roll player and now joins a team that runs pick-and-roll as often as any team in the league. He was in the 81st percentile in pick-and-roll efficiency in the 2018-19 season and has been for most of his career.

Utah’s offense bogged down in the series against the Rockets in part because the Jazz lacked players who could create offense when Houston’s switches created iso situations. He’s not Kyrie Irving or Kemba Walker but Mike Conley is terrific at creating his own shot in isolation.

If you want Donovan to handle the ball, no problem. Conley is terrific playing off the ball. He shot 40 percent last season on catch and shoot threes.

Turnovers were an issue for the Jazz last season, especially above the break. Conley has one of the best assist-to-turnover ratios among NBA point guards. He takes care of the basketball and is a terrific passer.

The Jazz will be infinitely better offensively with the addition of Conley and his presence should make Donovan Mitchell much more effective and efficient.

Conley is also a great fit on the other end of the floor. He is a terrific defender at the point guard position. He was named 2nd team NBA All-Defense in 2013.

A starting five of Conley, Mitchell, Ingles, Favors and Gobert looks like a contender. Who is scoring against this lineup?

Jazz Keep Derrick Favors

If the Jazz were going to be major players in free agency this summer and chase notable free agents like Tobias Harris, D’Angelo Russell or Kemba Walker they would be forced to rescind their rights to Derrick Favors in order to create enough cap space to sign such a player.

The Jazz didn’t want to lose Derrick and I doubt Jazz fans wanted that either.

By trading for Conley AND keeping Favors, the Jazz were able to have their cake and eat it too.

Keeping Favors who is coming off a terrific season insures the Jazz remain elite defensively and provides the team with insurance at the 5 in case Rudy gets injured.

The Jazz also didn’t have to include Dante Exum in the deal. The organization remains very high on Exum despite his injury history. If healthy he will provide needed depth behind Conley at point guard and can also provide minutes on the wing.

Utah Jazz Are Now Championship Contender

The acquisition of Mike Conley places the Jazz in position to be a contender in the Western Conference next season. With the injuries to Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, the Warriors will take a step back next season regardless of their free agent choices. The rift between Chris Paul and James Harden could tear down the Rockets. There is an opportunity for a new team to step up and take their place as the best in the West. Why not the Utah Jazz?

We’ve seen the move by the Lakers to pair Anthony Davis with LeBron James. The Jazz needed to keep up with the Joneses and this move does just that.

The risks? Mike Conley will turn 32 in October and he has an injury history missing 109 games the past four seasons.

Fair concerns but age doesn’t seem to be a problem for Mike. He’s coming off one of his most productive NBA seasons at age 31. He’s still in his prime and with just 2 years left on his contract the risk is minimized even more. If healthy, Conley should deliver production the Jazz haven’t seen at the point guard position since Deron Williams.

Conley Is Perfect Fit

The thought of making a splash in Free Agency and landing a big name player sounds exciting but this move should excite Jazz fans even more and may deliver more on the court. They added a Top 30 player at a position of need who makes the Jazz better offensively and is a perfect fit on and off the court. Mike Conley has what Dennis Lindsey calls “Jazz DNA”.

There are still holes on this roster. The Jazz need more shooting in the rotation and adding a 4 that can shoot the 3 may be something they can address with the small mid-level exception ($4.7 million).

If they shore up their bench the addition of Conley places the Jazz in a position they haven’t been in in quite some time. Competing for an NBA championship is no longer a pipe dream.

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