People around the team believe that Mike Conley is the 2016 free agent that the Nets are most likely to make their top target next summer, according to Chris Herrington of The Commercial Appeal in Memphis. His connection to Nets coach Lionel Hollins, who used to be the bench boss for the Grizzlies, remains strong, with Conley having called him “like a second father almost to me,” as Mike Mazzeo of ESPNNewYork.com noted this weekend. Still, Mazzeo suggests that it will be tough for the Nets to make themselves appealing to the point guard who’s No. 3 behind only LeBron James and Kevin Durant in our latest Free Agent Power Rankings, and Herrington doesn’t regard the Nets as a serious threat to sign him.
Conley, 28, is coming to the end of a deeply discounted contract that’s set to give him only slighly more than $9.588MM this season, but not many believe he’ll leave Memphis, as TNT’s David Aldridge wrote this summer. Marc Gasol hinted this summer that Conley is planning a long-term future with the Grizzlies, though the center more recently said he wouldn’t try to coerce his teammate into staying.
The Nets have a hole at point guard, where Jarrett Jack, who’s been a reserve for most of his 10 previous seasons in the NBA, is the starter in the wake of the team’s offseason buyout deal with Deron Williams. Brooklyn owes its 2016 first-round pick to the Celtics without protection, so GM Billy King will likely have to turn to veterans if he is to upgrade the roster after this season. The Nets have only about $45MM committed for next summer, when Joe Johnson comes off the books, and some around the league believe the salary cap will shoot up to $95MM.
Conley will be eligible for a projected maximum starting salary of $24.9MM for 2016/17, though that number is based off the league’s official cap projection of $89MM, and since max salaries are tied to the cap, a $95MM cap would enable Conley to command more. His agent is Mike Conley Sr., his father.
The Grizzlies can use Bird rights to go over the cap to retain Conley, though with less than $48MM committed for 2016/17, they have the cap flexibility to go after another team’s key free agent. Herrington speculates that they might pursue Harrison Barnes, who broke off extension talks with the Warriors last week, though Barnes will be a restricted free agent, meaning the Warriors can match offers for him.
What do you think of Brooklyn’s chances to land Conley or another marquee free agent next summer? Leave a comment to let us know.