When you think about the Memphis Grizzlies, there are probably a few things that come to mind. One of the first is probably their grit-and-grind mantra and style of play that has endeared them to many NBA fans. Two other things that probably come to mind are their two big men, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.
However, Mike Conley deserves to be mentioned in that conversation. The Grizzlies starting point guard is one of the catalysts for this team and has done more than his fair share to prove his value as a player in this league and for Memphis.
In 80 games last season, Conley averaged 14.6 points, 6.1 assists, 2.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 34.5 minutes per game. Conley also shot a solid 44 percent from the field and 36.1 percent from long-range. His performance overall led to him notching a PER of 18.38 last year.
To put Conley’s performance into perspective in the context of the rest of the league, only two other point guards averaged at least 14 points, six assists and two steals per game and had a PER of over 18, one of which is Chris Paul.
In terms of points per possession, Conley is rather pedestrian offensively. He ranked just 208th in the league last season as he averaged only 0.91 points per possession. However, Conley was extremely effective in isolation, averaging 1.03 points per possession, which was the eighth best rate in the league. Those numbers also don’t factor in Conley’s ability to lead the offense and facilitate for his teammates.
Even more of Conley’s value, though, comes from his defensive ability. Conley allowed 0.84 points per possession last season, which ranked only 119th in the league. However, Conley proved to be one of the best isolation defenders in the league, allowing just 0.66 points per possession against isos. Conley’s defense also aids the Grizzlies cause in that it creates turnovers, which bodes well for their slow, grinding style of play.
Conley is probably never going to get the credit that he deserves because he’s not an elite scorer and he’s also not flashy in much that he does. However, in terms of what he brings to this Memphis team, he is essential to what they want to do. Sooner or later, that is going to have to be noticed and appreciated more than it is right now.