When the Memphis Grizzlies traded away Rudy Gay, the primary reason was to save some money on the salary cap so that they could steer clear of the NBA’s luxury tax. Because of the trade, the players left in Memphis would have to step up their game without Gay. Sure, Tayshaun Prince would give them some scoring, but not near the same level of production that Gay did. Luckily, point guard Mike Conley answered the call.
In the 42 games that Conley played with Gay, he performed relatively well. He averaged 13 points, 5.8 assists, 2.5 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game. The only real downside to his play was that he was shooting just 42.8 percent from the floor, which isn’t as efficient as the Grizzlies would like him to be.
But as Memphis has needed more production from their key guys, Conley has elevated his play a great deal. In the 17 games that Gay has been gone, Conley has averaged 15.1 points, 6.8 assists, 2.7 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game. Not only has he improved his numbers, but he’s also improved on his efficiency, shooting 45 percent since Gay left Memphis.
Conley has been the perfect point guard for the Grizzlies since Gay departed. He’s one of the best perimeter defenders in the league, which plays right into Memphis’ hard-nosed style of play. But he’s also played as a balanced point guard on offense, shooting the ball efficiently and distributing the rock when he needs to.
The fact that Conley has stepped up when the Grizzlies needed him to is an enormous deal for them as they near the NBA Playoffs. It lets Memphis know that they don’t always have to rely entirely on Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol to get the job done and that they have another mentally tough player that can elevate his play when that’s what’s asked of him.