5. Jazz Guard Mike Conley
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz open their season on October 20, just five days from today. With the clock ticking, we look at 50 things for Jazz fans to be excited about leading up to the 2021-22 NBA season. Coming in at number five, Jazz guard Mike Conley.
Jazz Guard Mike Conley
After much of the 2020 offseason was spent wondering whether Mike Conley could rebound from a slow first year with the Jazz, the guard exceeded all reasonable expectations in his second season.
Conley averaged 16.2 points, 6.0 assists, and 3.5 rebounds while shooting a career-best 41 percent from the three-point line on nearly seven attempts per game. The guard finished the regular season with the league’s second-best raw plus-minus and was named to his first All-Star game.
In his 14th season, Conley became the longest-tenured NBA player to make his All-Star debut when he was handpicked by commissioner Adam Silver to represent the Western Conference.
After the guard’s career year, the questions shifted from whether Conley could elevate the Jazz to whether they could afford to bring him back after hitting free agency.
Thanks to the team’s success last season and the willingness of owner Ryan Smith to operate in the NBA’s luxury tax, the Jazz re-signed Conley to a three-year, nearly $70 million deal.
Now, Conley returns not only as one of the team’s core players but as perhaps the missing link between last year’s disappointing playoff exit and a potential run to the NBA Finals.
After a brilliant series against the Memphis Grizzlies in which the guard averaged a 20 point, 10 assist double-double through four games, Conley re-aggravated a lingering hamstring injury and missed all but 26 minutes of the second-round series against the Los Angeles Clippers.
In total, the guard missed 26 of the team’s 83 regular-season and playoff games, keeping the Jazz from reaching their true potential.
With the help of former Jazzman Joe Johnson, Conley said he’s added yoga to his training regimen and hopes it will allow him to limit the number of games missed this season due to injury.
“I’ve picked up yoga almost religiously now,” the veteran said during training camp, “so I think being able to mix strength with mobility and flexibility for me is a big thing.”
But the Jazz should also have additional help in the backcourt that was missing last season. Two-way guard Trent Forrest returned to the team after a terrific summer league, while the addition of Jared Butler has been a home run through three preseason games.
With added guard depth, the Jazz may be able to offer Conley more rest throughout the season to both preserve the veteran’s health and to develop the younger talent towards the backend of the rotation.
With opening night just five days away, the health of guard Mike Conley may determine the Jazz overall ceiling and is one of the top storylines to watch this season.
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