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Mike Conley: Making the Jazz a Contender - Upside Hoops

Mike Conley: Making the Jazz a Contender

Last season was Mike Conley’s first full season with the Utah Jazz. He put up a solid stat line of 14.4 points and 4.4 assists per game, but in reality, this was a step back from his last season in Memphis.

Despite his shortcomings, the Jazz decided to stick with him – something they would not regret.

Conley entered 2020-2021 with a vengeance. After a disappointing exit in last year’s playoffs, the Jazz shifted their focus to the next season. From their first win in Portland, a blowout by 20 points, Utah and Conley have not looked back.

Conley and Donovan Mitchell aka “Spida”, currently have the Jazz sitting at 3rd in the Western Conference at 12-4. They also boast the 4th best defense in the NBA, plus the 5th best offense. Conley is getting more comfortable within his new offense, and as of right now, the Jazz are looking like a championship contender.

Conley is having one of the best offensive seasons of his career. He is averaging 16.3 points, 5.9 assists, and 3.7 rebounds per game – a career-high. Along with that, his shooting has improved dramatically. He has increased his field goal percentage from 40.9% to 46.3% and his three-point percentage from 37.5% to 42.2%.

Conley is 33 years old and still works on improving his game. More importantly, his leadership is having a trickle-down effect on his teammates. While Conley can undoubtedly shoot the basketball, he has always been a pass-first player.

Thanks in large part to his veteran point guard, Mitchell is averaging a career-high in points at 24.3 and three-point percentage at 40.6%. During his tenure at Memphis, Conley never had a player like Mitchell. More of a true point guard, he had a little trouble playing off-ball with Mitchell last season. This season, Conley is taking advantage of Mitchell handling the ball occasionally. With his high basketball IQ and point guard mentality, Conley is allowing Spida the opportunity to dominate games.

In Conley’s 14th season in the league, he is playing his most effective basketball. He has the highest offensive rating of his career at 122, paired with the highest plus/minus at +14.4 each game. The only season that rivals those outputs is the 2012-2013 season, where he led the Grizzlies to a Western Conference Finals – not bad, right?

After a shaky first year, Conley seems more than comfortable in his second season with Utah.

“I like it a lot. I think we’re much better at that to start this season. When he gets, I just run to the corner, and he’s just looking to make plays. He’s so unselfish.” (Salt Lake Tribune) The duo of Mitchell and Conley is starting to click, and the league should take notice.

The last time Conley played this well, his team was within four games of the NBA Finals, without any legitimate stars. With the help of players like Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, the Jazz look primed to make a run in the playoffs. Again, it is very early in the season, but if Conley and the Jazz continue to play at this level, keep an eye out.

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