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What’s Wrong With Mike Conley? Blame October.

Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley (10) is fouled by Oklahoma City Thunder guard Chris Paul (3) as the Utah Jazz opens the 2019-20 season with the Oklahoma City Thunder at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019. Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Mike Conley has started his Utah Jazz career in a shooting slump — but slow Octobers aren’t uncommon for the new Jazz point guard. In fact, they are more common than not. 

Through seven games, Conley’s averages are down in every statistic compared to last season, with the exception of turnovers, which are up significantly from his time in Memphis. 

Conley is averaging career lows in field goal percentage, three-point percentage, rebounds and assists. His points per game and steals per game averages are on pace to be the second-worst for his career. His 3.1 turnovers per game would be a career-high. 

So, what’s wrong with the 32-year-old guard?

While there’s more to the game than scoring, looking at Conley’s cold shooting through seven games is a good place to start. 

Shot Charts

The traditional NBA shot chart is broken down into 14 zones. 

Conley is shooting worse in nine of the 14 zones compared to last season. Two of the zones where Conley has made improvement from last season, he’s attempted just one shot. In two others, he’s yet to attempt a shot. 

The Jazz guard is below league average in nine of the 14 zones and is 10 percent or worse than league average in eight of the zones. He’s above league average in just three zones, including the two zones where he’s attempted just one shot.

His close-midrange shots are worse in all five categories from last season, where he’s down an average of 16.1 percent from each zone. All five zones are below league average.

Most glaring is Conley’s drop-off on close-midrange shots directly in front of the rim. The 13th year guard has dropped from 48.2 percent last year to 27.3 percent this season. While that’s not his biggest drop within near the hoop, it’s where he takes a huge majority of his close-midrange shots. 

The majority of these shots come by way of Conley’s notoriously effective floater, which has abandoned him this season. 

It’s dually troubling considering the number of shots Conley is taking from 3-10 feet. The guard is taking 22 percent of his shots from this distance, compared to just 15 percent last year.

Despite Conley’s woes, the Jazz coaching staff hasn’t expressed panic over his poor early-season shooting numbers.

“We need to find a way to get him more comfortable,” Quin Snyder said amid Conley’s slow start, “He’ll make shots.”

Conley has also seen a sharp drop in his shooting at the rim. 

Not only has the number of attempts Conley attempted at the rim dropped from over 29.3 percent of his attempts to 23.5 percent this year, his field-goal percentage has dropped from 51.8 percent to 45 percent. While Conley has never been an exceptional finisher at the rim, the drop-off this season has been significant. 

Conley has converted just 33 percent of his shots from 0-3 feet, a 19 percent drop from his previous career low. He’s taken just seven percent of his shots within three feet, a career-low by nearly 12 percent. 

It’s not just close shots where Conley is struggling. 

From the three-point zones, Conley has seen his percentages drop in four of the five. 

Though Conley isn’t an elite long-distance shooter, his three-point shooting has seen a dramatic drop this year. While Conley has maintained a healthy 44 percent average on corner threes, he’s dropped off significantly above the break. 

Where the new Jazzman shot a respectable 35 percent above the break last year, that number has slipped to 23 percent in 2019. The lower percentages are more significant considering Conley is taking 46 percent of his shots from three-point range, up from 38 percent from last year. 

Shot Quality

Bizarrely, Conley has seen a rise in the quality of his shots since moving to the Jazz. 

Conley has seen his open shots jump from 54.7 percent last season to 55.3 percent this year. Within 10 feet, the number has risen from 49.2 percent to 54.1 percent. 

In his final season in Memphis, Conley was a knockdown shooter when considered wide open. Last year, the guard knocked down 45.4 percent of his shots when no defender was within six feet, including 43.3 percent from deep. 

This season, those numbers are surprisingly low. 

Conley has made just 32 percent of his wide-open shots this season, including just 27.3 percent from three. 

It seems safe to assume those numbers should rebound over a larger sample size.

The Good News

While Conley has started slowly in a Jazz uniform, that appears par for the course throughout his career. Though certainly impacted by this season’s drastically low numbers, Conley’s worst shooting month of his career has historically been October.

In 31 career October games, Conley has converted just 38 percent of his field goals, and 29.7 percent of his three-pointers.

Subtracting out five October games from this season, and Conley’s numbers are a near-identical 39 percent from the floor and 31 percent from deep throughout his 13-year career. 

The bright side for the Jazz, those numbers traditionally make a significant jump November through April of the NBA season. Conley’s career averages climb to 44.3 percent shooting from the floor, and 37.8 percent from the three-point line in all non-October NBA months. 

Conley has shot better than 40 percent from the floor in just four of his 13 career Octobers. That’s the same number of times he’s shot better than 30 percent from the three-point line.

Conversely, Conley’s career averages never dip below either 40% from the floor or 30% from three in any month after October.

While Conley’s issues to begin his Jazz career stretch beyond shooting, his slumping floor percentages aren’t unique to his time in Utah, and shouldn’t be a major cause for concern for Jazz fans.

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