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Mike Conley: Utah Jazz Season In Review

Apr 8, 2020, 5:47 PM | Updated: Apr 24, 2020, 3:39 pm
Mike Conley...
Mike Conley #10 of the Utah Jazz celebrates a play during a game against the LA Clippers at Vivint Smart Home Arena on October 30, 2019 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The NBA is in a standstill as a result of the coronavirus outbreak that has sidelined professional sports across the globe. With 18 games left to play in the regular season for the Utah Jazz, and a date with the postseason on the line, it’s unclear when or if the season will return.

With game action in a holding pattern, it’s an ideal time to look at each player on the Jazz roster and how they have performed this season. Have they exceeded or failed to meet expectations, have they improved their game, remained steady, or seen a decrease in their level of play. Finally, how will they impact the team when games return, whether that’s to finish the 2019-20 season, or to begin the 2020-21 season.

The order of player evaluations will be done by jersey number, starting with the team’s lowest, and working to the team’s highest number.

Mike Conley – 10 – Point Guard

Stats: 13.8 ppg, 3.2 apg, 4.3 apg: .405%/.376%/.795%

There might be no player in team history that put on a Jazz uniform under a bigger microscope than Mike Conley did when the Jazz acquired him just before draft night in 2019.

The anticipation for Conley was so great that even the franchise kept the first images of the point guard in a Jazz uniform private until they announced the return of the purple mountain jerseys in late August.

With Conley’s long successful history in Memphis and the Jazz needing a point guard who could take over games in the postseason, the hype surrounding the team’s acquisition was appropriate.

Unfortunately for Conley, the bar was set so high for success that it was going to be nearly impossible for the 13-year veteran to satisfy the anticipation.

Early on, Conley badly struggled with his shot in a Jazz uniform, causing an undue amount of handwringing amongst fans.

Through the first four games of the season, Conley connected on just nine of 45 shot attempts, including a 1-16 performance against Oklahoma City to open the season and an 0-7 performance against the Phoenix Suns resulting in just one point in 20 minutes of action.

Though Conley would see his shooting numbers improve over the next 17 games, the team itself struggled to open the season. With a record of 12-9 through 21 games, Jazz fans were left seeking the source for the team’s slow start to the year. After 50 wins a season ago, and the team’s other offseason acquisition, Bojan Bogdanovic filling up the box score, Conley became an easy target for disdain.

To make matters worse, Conley suffered a hamstring injury that would sideline him for 19 of the next 20 games. In the point guard’s absence, the Jazz would win 15 of their 19 contests, further muddying the view of Conley’s role with the Jazz.

In 19 games since returning from injury, Conley’s play has significantly improved, though the team has once again been plagued by inconsistency as coach Quin Snyder has worked to solidify his rotations

Since being moved back into the starting lineup, the Jazz are just 7-6 over their last 13 games, though Conley has seen his numbers improve dramatically. In the midst of this return to the starting lineup, reports emerged that Conley was going to be sent to the Jazz bench in favor of Royce O’Neale who had been displaced upon the point guard’s return, a decision that was quickly, albeit confusingly reversed the same afternoon it was rumored.

Despite the shaky ground in which Conley has found himself, the guard is averaging 16.5 points, 4.9 assists, and 3.8 rebounds, while shooting 46 percent from the field and an impressive 44 percent from the three-point line.

While the process of bringing Conley onto the roster seems to have consisted of one trade-off after another, it’s clear the 32-year-old still has plenty to offer a team looking to make the jump from a solid playoff team to a true contender.

As Conley has proven since returning the starting lineup, he’s a reliable shooter and scorer, when the team’s other leaders are struggling, he’s got the ability to take over games on the road and will the Jazz to victory.

Whether the season returns this year or next, Conley appears to have found a new comfort level within Snyder’s system that will help push the team to the next level.

Perhaps one darkhorse issue that could be facing the Jazz is the status of Conley’s contract next season. The point guard has a player option for $34 million next season, a number that seems impossibly high to pass up.

However, should the guard decide his fit in Utah is not what’s best as he enters the twilight of his career, could Conley look to find a new franchise to join while signing a longer contract mitigating some of the money lost from last season?

With a salary cap that will inevitably drop as a result of basketball-related income due to the coronavirus pandemic, it would be difficult for Conley to find such a massive contract, but in a talent depleted free agency class, the veteran guard would undoubtedly have suitors.

The Jazz should plan on Conley return next season, and as he’s shown at his best, could still factor into the team’s long term plans, even beyond the final year of his current contract.

However, for Jazz fans to grant a passing grade to the team for the point guard’s acquisition, blending Conley’s improving stats and the team’s performance will be a top priority.

Mike Conley’s Letter Grade: C+

You can read the rest of the 2019-20 Utah Jazz player evaluations in the links below.

Jordan Clarkson: Utah Jazz Season In Review

Joe Ingles: Utah Jazz Season In Review

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