Saturday, November 10, 2018

Is It Time To Worry About Mike Conley?

Posted By on Sat, Nov 10, 2018 at 10:39 AM

What's going on with Mike Conley? His shot is cold from midrange and from deep. While he's shown surprising speed and burst — considering he's only been playing full speed basketball for about a month after having not played since November 13th, 2017 — his floaters and shots close to the rim aren't falling.

I think it's still too early to know for sure what Conley's new normal is, but currently he appears to be experiencing a shooting slump and hasn't gotten his legs back. He's consistently mentioned the importance of — and that he's working on — his conditioning in the few weeks he's been back on the court.
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In Ten Takes after Ten Games, Chris Herrington broke down a couple things that alarmed him about Conley in Wednesday's game against the Nuggets. There was a moment where Conley sped between two Nuggets defenders to tap a loose ball downcourt for a Garrett Temple dunk, instead of handily beating his defenders to the ball and pushing the fast break himself. Herrington also pointed out that Conley often looked a little tired, and struggled to turn the corner like he used to in the game against Denver.

Are these things indicative of new physical limitations that Conley (and the Grizzlies) will have to deal with? I don't know yet. But consider that the Grizzlies played Wednesday night's home game coming off of a West Coast road trip that featured the Jazz and a back-to-back ending against Golden State.

Conley played heavy minutes in each game, including both back-to-backs. He was guarding Steph Curry till late Monday night in Golden State, flew back to Memphis, and played the 9-1 Nuggets on Wednesday. Jamal Murray nearly had a 50 point game against the Celtics before his visit to Memphis. I don't think we have to hit the panic button on Mike Conley yet. We'll need more time, and he'll need more time to get his legs back.
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It is somewhat alarming that Conley is playing heavier minutes this year (31.5) than he did in his short stint last season (31.1). And this is happening when Conley has much better backup in terms of handling the ball and initiating the offense.

We've seen Wayne Selden, Kyle Anderson, and especially Shelvin Mack afford Conley the ability to play off the ball, and that's kicked the Grizzlies offense up a notch from when Conley had to facilitate everything. If Conley's experiencing a shooting slump and conditioning is a work in progress, I think the Grizzlies offense could vault higher than where it currently resides, in the middle of the pack.

I'm not sure what Coach Bickerstaff could've done to get Conley more rest on the West Coast road trip and the home game against Denver. The Jazz and Nuggets games were close, and the Grizzlies collapsed in the second halves of the Suns and Warriors games. As improved as the roster is, the Grizzlies can't live without Conley when trying to come back or close out a game.

Conley remains the crux for the Grizzlies' hopes for a meaningful playoff run. To me, his game looks like it's almost back where it used to be, minus shooting and conditioning, but maybe he isn't the player he used to be. How will it all play out?

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