As the Memphis Grizzlies sit at 32-12 and in first place in the Southwest Division, they continue to get all-star seasons from Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. Their play in the post, as well as their stifling defense, has been a major reason why Memphis is enjoying the season they are having. Heck, Gasol might in the talks for MVP.
However, the play of point guard Mike Conley has been absolutely vital to the Grizzlies thriving this year and it’s a crime he’s being overlooked. He has been the glue guy that has kept it all together. Conley is the engine that makes the Grizzlies run like a well-oiled machine.
With the Western Conference boasting some great point guards, Conley continues to get lost in the shuffle. There is no doubt that the shadow he hides behind in regards to point guards in the West is rather large. Conley has to contend with the likes of Chris Paul, Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard. The aforementioned players are likely to be headed to the All-Star game, while guys like Ty Lawson, Rajon Rondo (who is new to the Western Conference) and Eric Bledsoe probably get more love nationally than Conley.
Make no mistake, though, Conley is right up there and is more than capable of holding his own against anyone in the league. Conley first looks to set up his teammates and takes what the defense gives him. He is turning into a great shooter and can also get to rim, while finding Gasol, Randolph and the newly acquired Jeff Green at the right spots on the floor.
For the year, Conley is averaging a career-high 17.7 points to go along with 5.8 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game while shooting a career-best .459 from the field.
Where Conley has most improved is from the three-point line. Coming into the 2014-15 season, his best mark from three-point territory was when he shot .406 percent from beyond the arc in his second year in the league (2008-09). That was just on 217 attempts , though.
This year Conley has already hoisted up 163 three-point attempts through 41 games and is connecting on a career-best .423 percent from the perimeter.
With Gasol and Randolph anchoring the post, Conley has been a boon to the Grizzlies offense while nailing down perimeter jump shots when opposing defenses clog the lane. Conley is making teams pay for doubling Gasol and/or Randolph. This has made the Grizzlies such a dangerous team on offense and more complete than in year’s past.
What fuels and drives Conley more than ever is his ability to quietly lead and know the pulse of his team.
From Ian Thomsen of NBA.com:
“To be a good leader, you have to be a good listener as well,” Grizzlies guard Tony Allen had been saying the previous day of Conley. “So he listens to what we’ve got to say, if we’re complaining, or if we think they should go a different way; and he always brings us back, that we’ve all got to be on the same page to move forward. He needs to continue that. But I think I want him to be a little nastier, though. I need him to be a little more nastier, put a little more of a mean streak in him.”
“He says there’s another level I need to reach,” said Conley, who went into his Tony Allen rasp: “He wants me being nasty, to put on a different Mike.” He laughed. “He wants me to be in his space, grab his jersey, pound him in his chest, ‘Snap out of it!’ and all that stuff. I can try, but that’s just not me for the most part. I’ll slap him against the back of his head once in a while, because that is the only way to get his attention sometimes: You’ll be talking to him and he’s looking right past you, so you just got to hit him upside the head. Then he’s listening to you again.”
“Yeah,” conceded Allen with a shrug, “he’ll hit me upside my head.” He was grinning as he clapped his hands. “‘Snap out of it! Go onto the next play, we’ve got to make a run!’ He’ll tell me things like that, just keeping me engaged, and I think that’s big. That’s big.”
Don’t expect Conley to be named an All-Star, as the competition is just too fierce for him to make it, but considering his personality that’s just fine with him. As long as he continues to win he’ll be quite content. And for a Grizzlies team that is going above and beyond expectations this season (currently the second best team in the Western conference to the Golden State Warriors), Conley is right at home in Memphis.
Just give the man his proper due.
Stats complete through Sunday’s games