Quantcast
Thursday, September 26th, 2013 at 12:00 pm  |  113 responses

Top 50: Mike Conley, no. 45

The Grizzlies PG is steadily elevating his game to an elite level.

by Mirin Fader / @mirinfader

At the start of every NBA season, we like to label players and put them into boxes. But Mike Conley has been making that a little more difficult lately. He was able to shake off the “guy-with-all-the-potential-but-never-lived-up-to-it” label that hovered over him for the past few years, by substantially surpassing expectations this past postseason.

So what do we call him now?

An elite point guard? A top-10 point guard? A superstar in the making, even? Depending on who you talk to, he could be one, none or all three. But what’s undeniable is that he’s integral to the Memphis Grizzlies’ chances for another deep playoff run in the upcoming ’13-14 season.

Conley has reached a critical point in his career. Will he match his post-season productivity or will he return to obscurity? Will he finally make the jump in people’s minds as part of the upper-echelon of the NBA’s point guards?

A lot of it comes down to winning. Or maybe not. You’d think he might be ranked higher than No. 45 in SLAM’s Top 50 after putting the Grizzlies on his back at times for a franchise-record 56 regular-season wins and a trip to the Western Conference finals.

Maybe there’s just a bigger pool of point guards to choose from now, making it tougher for someone with quiet confidence like Conley to stand out. No longer is the position solely dominated by the likes of Chris Paul, Tony Parker and Rajon Rondo. The League is populated with more elite point guards than ever before.

Conley seems most poised for another standout season because he’s a game-changer. When Rudy Gay was traded to the Raptors in January, Conley thrived with new freedom at the point, proving he could take over games. Big games.

In Memphis’ 99-93 Game 2 road victory over the Thunder in the Western Conference semifinals, Conley’s near triple-double (26 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists) showed that he doesn’t run from pressure situations.

It wasn’t just one night. He raised his game consistently when it mattered most—upgrading from a regular-season average of 14.6 points, 6.1 assists and 2.8 rebounds per game to a playoff line of 17 ppg, 7.1 apg (fourth in post-season apg) and 4.7 rpg. (He did have a weak spot, though, shooting 38.4 percent from the field.)

Conley’s value this season, however, will be measured by more than pure numbers. He can change the game in more subtle ways, and will look to do so as one of the more complete point guards in the NBA. He can pass, score, defend, shoot and run an offense.

Not an in-your-face, flashy kind of PG, Conley can orchestrate his team’s offense while simultaneously disappearing into it, letting the frontcourt of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol take over. They trust that he will get them the ball. That’s a big deal for someone who couldn’t be trusted to play starter-level minutes a few years ago.

Now, Conley doesn’t seem rushed when he has the ball. Especially when he initiates a screen. And if a high double team pushes him farther away from the basket, he already knows who he’s going to throw it to or what lane he’s going to take before the defense reaches him.

He could be among the NBA’s leaders in assists this year. He edged Chris Paul in that department in the first round of the Playoffs, dishing out 8.3 a night compared to Paul’s 6.3, stealing the series from the Clippers in six after an ugly 0-2 start.

Conley has even more upside on the defensive end. As an All-Defensive Second-Team selection, he averaged 2.18 regular-season steals per game, which ranked third in the League, to go along with an NBA-best 174 total steals. The better he gets, the better the hard-nosed defense of Memphis will be.

Some call Conley underrated. And he is. But that characterization suits him right now because he’s still evolving, still getting better.

His last game was telling. He was held to 9 points (with 7 assists) on 30.8 percent shooting from the field against Parker and the Spurs in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals. He watched Parker steal the show with 37 points on 15-21 shooting.

That night doesn’t take away from Conley’s other performances in the series, or in the Playoffs as a whole, but it does show how far he needs to go until he becomes the point guard he strives to be, the point guard that Parker spent twice as many years becoming.

Conley’s near-triple double against the Thunder prompted Tony Allen to say: “Mike Conley is now one of the top-five point guards in the league, whether anybody likes it or not. I know a lot of people have got their favorites, but Mike Conley is in that conversation now.”

Conley’s somewhere in the middle of all of the hype. He’s shown tremendous upside while at the same time comes into this season still having to prove that upside. He’s in the “conversation,” as Allen said. Now it’s up to Conley to keep speaking up.


Where should Mike Conley rank in the SLAM Top 50?

Loading ... Loading ...
SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2013
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Monta Ellis Mavs SG 5
49 Luol Deng Bulls SF 10
48 Ricky Rubio TWolves PG 14
47 Greg Monroe Pistons PF 12
46 Kawhi Leonard Spurs SF 9
45 Mike Conley Grizzlies PG 13

Rankings are based on expected contribution in ’13-14—to players’ team, the League and the game.

  • Add a Comment
  • Share
  • RSS

Tags: , , , ,

  • DeeHaze24

    Great stuff as usual from Mirin – although anyone who had labeled Conley as a ‘guy with all the potential but never lived up to it’ is clueless. Point guard is the toughest position to make a transition from college to the pros, and very few do it immediately. Conley also came into the league after one year at OSU, so there was an entire physical aspect to his transition aside from running the point in the league. I’d imagine when the Grizz drafted him they knew it’d take a few years for him to finally get comfy at that spot. The last couple seasons he’s obviously proved himself as an emerging top 50 player, and should continue on that path until he’s past his physical prime.

  • LLC#12

    For me, “elite”, is top 5 in their position in the world. So, though the league is flooded with talented PG’s, only the top 5 are “elite”, and on this list, Conley is 13th. So Tony Allen needs to chill. But then again, does Ellis being the 5th best SG make him elite?! My reasoning has become flawed.

  • Stepfan Raiford

    He is a player who improves every single year, but I don’t see him reaching that elite level. But he is in that second tier of good/solid point guards conversation.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    #underrated

  • http://twitter.com/niQknacks niQ

    I didn’t notice it until you pointed it out. Only 5 SG’s in the top 50!

  • tape15

    So is damian lillard better than mike conley…? Or is lillard not even in the top 50 – just think conley deserves more credit. The reason he doesnt shine or need to fill up the scoreboard as much is cause hes got the best frontcourt in the league with him. He’s become a solid three point shooter and can be a pest on d – which is an issue for pgs these days

  • ChosenOne

    Yeah I mentioned that in my comment yesterday. What has happened to all the 2-guards??
    The 4 other SG’s will most likely be Kobe, Wade, Harden, Manu/Ray?

  • spit hot fiyah

    he could end up higher than this when the season is over. for a while there (until they ran into the spurs) he was in convo for best pg in the playoffs.

    looking back it’s funny how so many laughed at memphis for giving him what at the time seemed like a very big contract, now they have him for about 9 mill a year until the end of 14-15, which seems like a steal.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Paul-Parker-Westbrook-Rose-Curry-Irving-Wall-Rondo-Williams
    .
    There are no other PG’s better than Mike Conley

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Joe Johnson

  • shockexchange

    For Conley to move up in the rankings his team has to go deeper in the playoffs. That’s why Parker, D. Rose, Westbrook, Rondo, Steph Curry, et. al are ranked so high. Conley plays with two of the top big men in the L. He has major pieces around him to make it happen.

  • Sergio

    Deeper? His team went to the Conference Finals, something that Crhis Paul, for instance, never achieved.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Damian Lillard will be on this list. Proving the voters were totally fooled by his huge portion of minutes and possessions.
    .
    And again proving, defense does not matter on this list. Saying Lillard is better than Conley is just stupid.

  • TR

    Never thought I’d see the day when Manu wasn’t top 50 but its here

  • ChosenOne

    Forgot him, my bad. I still would have either one of Manu or Ray in there (or both). They’re still really valuable to their respective teams.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Value and Ability/Production are so very different.

  • TR

    Is Conley the best defender at PG? or is it CP3? or someone else

  • shockexchange

    Funny, SE thought those games between Memphis and San Antonio were scrimmage games. The Grizzlies got exposed, big time. The real conference finals were between San Antonio and Golden State. Also Memphis / Conley get an asterisk (in SE’s mind) for last season because Westbrook was injured. Otherwise, OKC is in the conference finals.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Him or Paul were the best last season. Eric Bledsoe is a starter now, and Jrue Holiday will be happy. So it’s hard to say, but those are the top 4 next season. With Westbrook/Wall/Rubio knocking on the door here pretty soon.

  • Caboose

    Yikes….defense really doesn’t matter does it?

  • ChosenOne

    Of course. But I’m sure Ray and Manu will produce this season. Ray ain’t losing his shooting touch, and the Spurs still have confidence in Manu, what with that contract he received in the off-season.

  • ChosenOne

    Same with Ray.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    apparently not even a little bit

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    dude, Ray Allen just averaged 10.9 PPG. There is no justifiable argument anywhere on this earth that can put him in the top 50. The top 100? probably like in the 80s. Same goes for Manu, who just averaged 11 points and only played 23 minutes a night.

  • LLC#12

    Last years list only had 8, Ellis at 37, Gordon at 33, Manu at 31, Iggy at 26, Johnson at 22, Harden at 20, Wade at 6 and Kobe at 5..

    So from that 8, I guess Gordon, Manu and Iggy will all drop out.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    well Iggy should be a SF this season…..

  • Dundler

    Well, this is the first one that really is just blatently stupid. 13th best point guard? Not a chance. He’s more about 7th. Him and Paul are the best PG defenders and he is one of the very best in actually running a team whilst being able to not force his own issue.
    He fits the Grizzlies perfectly, and personally I think the ability to do what is required for your team is a vastly underated attribute in NBA players. Conley has that.

  • Dundler

    Lillard shouldn’t be on this list now, but undoubtedly will be. Again, ridiculous from SLAM

  • Dundler

    The next ten or so players I will definitely be thinking ‘Better than Conley…I think not’

  • Rockwell

    Glad to see that there are others who actually watch the game and can appreciate its subtleties. Conley doesn’t have the eye-popping stats and he doesn’t show up on many highlight reels, but he does his job and he does it well. Perfect fit for the Grindhouse mentality.

  • LakeShow

    Wait so who is better at the PG position?

    Please don’t tell me Lillard, Lawson or Jennings are on this list….

    …. …. It can’t be.

    Paul
    Westbrook
    Parker
    Curry
    Irving
    Rose
    Williams
    Wall
    Rondo
    Holiday
    ?
    ?
    Conley
    Rubio

  • Dundler

    No way that those three are above Conley, and the same goes for Holiday.

  • LakeShow

    I think Holiday has a say.

    Other than that, yep.

  • LakeShow

    I think Holiday has a say. Not certifiably better, but the Grizz wouldn’t be any worse with Holiday that’s for sure.

  • Dundler

    I dunno about that, but I’ll admit to not having watched Holiday all that much so I’ll take your word for it. Even without the PGs, no way Conley belongs in the 40′s

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    well Conley just led his team to the conference finals. Jrue Holiday threw a fit and his squad missed the playoffs. Plus, Conley was the better defender, which is Jrue’s biggest asset. I can see Holiday overtaking him at some point, maybe even this season. But as of today, Conley is clearly better imo.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    the Grizzlies would definitely be worse with Holiday. Conley runs that offense so damn well. And he puts so much effort into the defensive end, trading him out wouldn’t help the defense, that’s for sure. Even if it wouldn’t really “regress” with Holiday.

  • shockexchange

    There may be one or two PGs listed ahead of Conley who should not be, but is it really that serious? Conley obviously doesn’t care so why should anyone else? He averaged 14.6 ppg and 6.9 apg on 44.0% shooting. If he cared he would have put up 18 and 8 with and a 51% FG%. It’s not like there’s anybody guarding the guy.

  • spit hot fiyah

    did i say it was serious?

  • spit hot fiyah

    joe johnson. ray doesn’t sniff the top 50 and neither should ginobili at this point

  • spit hot fiyah

    so u never thought that you would get older?

  • shockexchange

    fiyah, don’t go getting your dander up with the Shock Exchange, cause you know what it is. And don’t respond to this post. This is way too much back and forth for a guy (Conley) who only shoots 44% from the field given the number of open looks he gets.

  • davidR

    SG is probably the thinnest position today talent wise

  • shockexchange

    A few of those highly rated PGs are more like combo guards.

  • davidR

    conley did have the benefit of knowing gasol (and tony) would get his back. haven’t seen enough of jrue, but i do know he’s a great defender

  • Max

    Waaaay too low, c’mon SLAM!

  • davidR

    they base it on “contribution,” which probably means production. since damian will get more touches and minutes, i can see it

    EDIT: also saw it’s about contribution to the league and team. damian is already a bigger face than conley, so there’s also that

  • davidR

    *contribution to the league is also factored. not exactly sure what that means, but since damian is already a bigger face than conley, that probably factored into his higher ranking

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    is Damian a bigger face? i mean, Conley just won a playoff series against Chris Paul, and was on the 2nd biggest stage of all, the Conference Finals. — Seems like Conley just doesn’t get the credit he deserves. I doubt people know Damian Lillard and don’t know who Mike Conley is.

  • Dundler

    Well, hardly. Production counts defence too. And as both contribution and production are engineering to winning, Conley definitely produces more also. If we were going by that, Ben McLemore would be in the top 50 as well

  • LakeShow

    Just saying he is the only one that can make an argument.(Lillard, Lawson, Jennings obviously cannot)

    I don’t even think Holiday is better, just saying he shouldn’t be overlooked.

  • LakeShow

    We agree haha, even though you contradict yourself.

    We both know the Grizz would maintain with Holiday. they are comparable players talent wise.

    “the Grizzlies would definitely be worse with Holiday”

    “Even if it wouldn’t really “regress” with Holiday.”

  • Dundler

    Like I say I don’t know that much on holiday. Just hard to imagine them not being worse off without Conley

  • davidR

    i dunno if you’re new to the top 50, but you’re being too logical haha.

    nah, i meant there’s a hidden value for individual production/stats being weighted more than team success on these lists. and damian def produces more stat wise than does conley

  • Dundler

    Lillard is a bigger face to those that check out the daily zap twice a week. To those who actually follow closely and have an insight, Conley is far higher

  • davidR

    i think he is. portland seems to be the bigger market, damian just won rookie of the year, and is being hailed as the next great oakland PG following the lineage of kidd and payton.

    while conley has been consistently going to the playoffs, he’s just too damn underrated and flies under the radar. he’s always overshadowed by gasol, zbo, and rudy when he was still on the team. i think it’s his personality and play style. nothing flashy or eye popping about it

    there’s also the shoe deal. damian already has one and is being marketed. conley isn’t, and has never been

  • TR

    Nope. I thought life was like that movie “In Time,” starring Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried and that once you turn 25 you stop aging and time is an acceptable form of currency as opposed to money.

  • davidR

    well, damian was in a shoe commercial for adidas along with john wall, jrue, and someone else…. with a$ap rocky narrating. conley has never been in commercials.

    not that it means anything really, but the average fan will recognize damian before they recognize conley

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    you can’t try and say it’s a definitive ranking of the best players in the NBA and then try and justify Damian Lillard being better because of a shoe deal. Conley has been around longer. He’s been on bigger stages (both as a pro, and collegiately) — there is really no way I am buying the “contribution to the sport” spin on this.

  • davidR

    oh i don’t buy it either. i’m surprised conley is ranked lower than damian. but i’m just trying to understand the criteria they used because it seems like every year all the underrated players always get shafted.

    there’s a lot of hype surrounding damian, and that’s why i can see SLAM ranking damian higher than conley. i mentioned the shoe deal because it buys into the belief that damian will have a greater impact on the league (one of the criteria), is a bigger face, and will be ranked higher

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    i see where you are coming from. i just really hope that’s not what SLAM is doing. But they do normally take a flyer or two on young players every year. I just KNOW that Damian Lillard is not the one they should do it over. The kid is a lot closer to his peak then anyone realizes. I mean, he’s older than John Wall for goodness sake.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    hold on, it’s not like that?

  • LakeShow

    There is only one guy that “cared” at the point guard position last season by your standard then you dunce.

  • LakeShow

    44% is the average fg% for a point guard.

    He is possibly the best defender at the PG spot, so the fact he shoots from the field averagely is not a big deal at all. He is consistent on his deep shots too. Career 38%.

  • Dundler

    So, exactly what I just said then?

  • Dundler

    No, I’m not new, but thanks.
    And yeah I understand that people think that, but I’m not going to support it. There has to be a balance, you can have great players on bad teams, but you can also have not so great players with inflated numbers on bad teams

  • shockexchange

    44% may be average for guys like Wall, CP3, Westbrook or D. Rose who draw a lot of attention from defenses. For the Grizzlies, defenses are set up to stop Marc Gasol / Zack Randolph at the same ___ time. In the games SE has seen, Conley gets a lot of open looks because teams play off of him. His FG % should be in the low 50s, at a minimum.

  • davidR

    there are a lot more average fans than those who follow closely. what i’m getting at is, the average fan’s perception when considering popularity and overall league impact will outweigh that of those who follow the game closely.

    just the way it goes

  • shockexchange

    Given that teams play off of Conley while focusing on other Grizzlies, Conley gets more open looks. His shooting percentage should be a lot higher. And it’s “know nothing” comments like yours that make Conley think he’s performing on par with elite PGs.

  • Dundler

    Agreed. What does that matter? There’s a lot more people who have never coached in the NBA than those who have, who do you think gets more coaching job interviews? This isn’t about who the average fan can recognise more, by that vote Kobe might still be number 1

  • LakeShow

    Who is it that goes off for the Grizz? Who are their big scorers? Z-Bo has averaged 14.4 ppg the last two seasons. Gasol averaged 14ppg last season. Conley averages the same as them…

    I think he gets more attention than you realize.

    I’m not a Conley fan. He’s not a top 10 PG to me, but saying he needs to shoot 50+% and throw 8 dimes a game to be a great PG is a little short sighted. He does exactly what the Grizz need of him and that’s an elite quality in and of it self.

  • LakeShow

    Naw man, PG’s rarely ever get at or above 50% fg’s.
    That is rare these days. It shouldn’t be expected.
    47% is what he should be at, so he needs to improve slightly.

  • davidR

    well, SLAM does have a business to run, so popular opinion does kinda influence these rankings a bit. but yea, thats why it depends on us here in the comments to be able to recognize the real rankings.

    and hey, controversy gets things poppin. for the record, i don’t agree with this ranking, but if you consider all things and the criteria SLAM uses, it (kinda) makes sense

  • shockexchange

    SE doesn’t disagree. He knows his role and plays it well. But for people to get their dander up if Lawson, Lillard or Holiday are ranked higher is rather outrageous.

  • Dundler

    Yeah I get your point, I’m just saying like, throw all that out cos who cares. In the Top 50, by the criteria given by SLAM, the ranking is incorrect

  • shockexchange

    It should be expected for an “elite” PG who gets the open looks Conley gets. His 44% FG% warrants his current ranking.

  • davidR

    beating the clips and a hobbled SA in the first round, or a hobbled thunder doesn’t necessarily count

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    I was talking about just the defense when I said the regress part dude.
    .
    There is no question the offense would falter. Holiday doesn’t get in the paint and collapse the defense at anything close to the level Conley does.

  • LakeShow

    Yeah it isn’t outrageous, or dander uprising worthy, but it’s just slightly different from reality.

  • shockexchange

    So you agree with SE. You’re coming along Lake.

  • LakeShow

    It’s about 5-10 spots off. Your right, not worth getting worked up about.
    But 48% is probably the highest Conley will ever get from the field.

  • LakeShow

    When your right.

    So not often.

  • i_ball

    People forget that the Grizz play at a low pace and this is leading to all their players having low(ish) numbers per game.
    He should be higher imo.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Hit the nail on the head

  • Nick Holden

    They obviously aren’t taking Iggy off the list, they just put him as SF this year.

  • Nick Holden

    Avery Bradley? He isn’t much of a PG on offense, but talking of who is the best defender at PG I think he should be in the conversation.

  • Sergio

    That series was much closer than it looks on paper. The first 3 games could’ve gone either way.

  • Sergio

    Well, the Clips had home court advantage and a better cast, so…

  • shockexchange

    (Denny Green voice) “The Clippers … they are who we thought they were!”

  • shockexchange

    The Shock Exchange thought is was San Antonio vs. the Spiece Indy Heat (Conley’s former AAU team).

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Well he is a SG. He definitely should be mentioned though, but he’s not a PG

  • danpowers

    way too low

  • Sergio

    Oh, boy. Shock, you still havent explained why you call Wade “Black Ric Flair”…

  • shockexchange

    He has a penchant for “accidentally” hurting guys. Dirtiest player in the L. “WOOOOOO!”

  • Interdico Scriptor

    I’ve never seen Jrue play, but Conley doesn’t really get me going much anyway.

  • Interdico Scriptor

    What’s Bledsoe then? if he’s a one; he’s gonna be top 10 very soon

  • Interdico Scriptor

    Memphis fan are we?

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Bledsoe is a PG. He’ll play Hybrid Guard all season but he’s definitely a PG

  • Interdico Scriptor

    Tell it like it is SE!!!

  • Interdico Scriptor

    GTFOH. Paul??? Rondo???

  • RKJ92

    I agree with your point; Conley’s shooting should be from 46-49% as a point guard.
    .
    But although he may be subpar from the field @LakeShow pointed out above that he is an excellent 3 point shooter at 38% and that alone brings his true field goal % up to a mark of .549% very lofty for a guard his size.
    .
    You also have to take into account that Conley as one of the leagues best, or the best defender at his position exerts so much energy on both ends of the floor that I’m sure any one of us could live with what he produces as a player, and the spot he was given here today.
    .
    Just some food for thought.

  • BCoops

    I wouldn’t be shocked if they have already thrown in Lillard, I dont agree with it at all mind you.

  • Shifty

    Not much talk about Rondo…..he averaged 50.6% one season while dropping 13.7 and 9 dimes…in a full season.

  • Max

    Rondo for sure hasn’t been a better defender his last couple of seasons.

  • Pingback: SLAM ONLINE | » Top 50: David Lee, no. 43

  • LakeShow

    What?

  • LakeShow

    There’s really nothing impressive to me about a PG that takes less than 2 buckets outside the paint a game shooting 50+%.

    It’s nice, but every player should shoot above 50% if they take 90% of their shots in the paint.

    Then you have his 60% FT’s and 25% 3 pointers… It’s just not that impressive imo.

  • https://twitter.com/jasontichenor Mr. Wet

    Mario Chalmers is a top ten player in the league.

  • Pingback: SLAM ONLINE | » Top 50: Kyrie Irving, no. 9

  • Pingback: SLAM ONLINE | » Top 50: Dwight Howard, no. 8

  • Pingback: SLAM ONLINE | » Top 50: Derrick Rose, no. 7

  • Pingback: SLAM ONLINE | » Top 50: Carmelo Anthony, no. 4

  • Pingback: SLAM ONLINE | » Top 50: Kevin Durant, no. 2

Advertisement