Mike Conley

Free Agent Stock Watch: Northwest Division

Throughout the season, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents this off-season. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we take a look at players from the Northwest Division:

Mike Conley, Jazz, 33, PG (Up) – Signed to a five-year, $152.6MM deal in 2016

After an injury-marred season, Conley has bounced back in a big way for a team with the league’s best record. He got a chance to play in the All-Star Game for this first time and he’s managed to stay on the court for the most part. His production has been steady and efficient (16.4 PPG, 5.4 APG, career-high 42.4% on 3s).

Despite his age, Conley has given himself some leverage in his walk year. However, he professed his love to Utah’s organization and style of play last month, saying he doesn’t want to go elsewhere. Barring another early-round playoff flameout, the Jazz will probably shrug off luxury-tax issues and retain their floor leader.

JaMychal Green, Nuggets, 30, PF (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $14.76MM deal in 2020

Green’s playing time was already diminishing before the Nuggets went on a shopping spree Thursday to fortify their frontcourt. The additions of Aaron Gordon and JaVale McGee mean that Green won’t be shedding his warmups very often the remainder of the season. Even with playing time factored in, Green’s rebounding numbers dropped significantly this month. The saving grace is that Green’s $7.56MM salary for next season is a player option. He won’t be pumping up his value, so it’s safe to assume he’ll opt in and let the Nuggets decide whether to keep him or deal him.

Kenrich Williams, Thunder, 26, SG/SF (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $6MM deal in 2020

While the Thunder’s front office continues to pile up draft picks, the current roster has the feel of tryout camp, especially with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander out for an extended period. The flip side is that players like Williams get a chance to show where they fit into the league.

Williams has been receiving steady playing time and he’s been productive of late, scoring in double figures in six of the last seven games. He’s also averaging 3.3 APG during that span, displaying his ability to make plays for others. His free throwing shooting remains woeful (54.1%). Williams’ $2MM salary for next season is non-guaranteed, but that’s a pittance for a rotation player, so expect him to remain on that contract.

Harry Giles, Trail Blazers, 22, C, (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $1.68MM deal in 2020

Opportunity knocked for Giles – and once again, he wound up in the trainer’s room. With Jusuf Nurkic sidelined for two months by a wrist injury, Giles got a chance to jump into the rotation as Enes Kanter’s backup. He was relatively ineffective before suffering a calf injury that sidelined him for over a month. With Nurkic back in action this weekend, Giles returns to third-string status at best. The 20th pick of the 2017 draft is still very young but his career is already at a crossroads as he enters unrestricted free agency again this summer. Will another organization give him a chance or will he have to seek employment overseas?

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

USA Basketball Expands Finalist List for Olympic Roster

Fifteen players have been added to the list of finalists for the U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team, USA Basketball announced today in a press release. The group will eventually be pared down to 12 players who will participate in the Olympic Games, which are set for July 23 to August 8 in Tokyo.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will serve as coach for the U.S. team, with Warriors coach Steve Kerr, Villanova coach Jay Wright and former Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce as his assistants.

No tryouts will be held this year. Instead, USA Basketball will choose the final roster by early summer. Training camp is scheduled to being in early July before the conclusion of the NBA playoffs.

“With the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics from 2020 to 2021, it’s important that we continue to remain flexible and consider all players who can contribute to our efforts to field the best USA team possible,” USA Basketball men’s national team managing director Jerry Colangelo said. “These additions we are announcing today will help ensure that we are doing that. Having a larger player pool than what we normally have is critical because of all of the uncertainties we face about availability. But for USA Basketball to receive the commitment of so many outstanding players remains an indicator of the great honor of representing your country means to these men.”

The new names under consideration are:

  1. Jarrett Allen (Cavaliers)
  2. Eric Gordon (Rockets)
  3. Jerami Grant (Pistons)
  4. Blake Griffin (Nets)
  5. Jrue Holiday (Bucks)
  6. DeAndre Jordan (Nets)
  7. Zach LaVine (Bulls)
  8. Julius Randle (Knicks)
  9. Duncan Robinson (Heat)
  10. Mitchell Robinson (Knicks)
  11. Fred VanVleet (Raptors)
  12. John Wall (Rockets)
  13. Zion Williamson (Pelicans)
  14. Christian Wood (Rockets)
  15. Trae Young (Hawks)

Forty-two players remain from the original list, which was announced in February 2020:

  1. Bam Adebayo (Heat)
  2. LaMarcus Aldridge (Spurs)
  3. Harrison Barnes (Kings)
  4. Bradley Beal (Wizards)
  5. Devin Booker (Suns)
  6. Malcolm Brogdon (Pacers)
  7. Jaylen Brown (Celtics)
  8. Jimmy Butler (Heat)
  9. Mike Conley (Jazz)
  10. Stephen Curry (Warriors)
  11. Anthony Davis (Lakers)
  12. DeMar DeRozan (Spurs)
  13. Andre Drummond (Cavaliers)
  14. Kevin Durant (Nets)
  15. Paul George (Clippers)
  16. Draymond Green (Warriors)
  17. James Harden (Nets)
  18. Montrezl Harrell (Lakers)
  19. Joe Harris (Nets)
  20. Tobias Harris (76ers)
  21. Gordon Hayward (Hornets)
  22. Dwight Howard (Sixers)
  23. Brandon Ingram (Pelicans)
  24. Kyrie Irving (Nets)
  25. LeBron James (Lakers)
  26. Kyle Kuzma (Lakers)
  27. Kawhi Leonard (Clippers)
  28. Damian Lillard (Blazers)
  29. Brook Lopez (Bucks)
  30. Kevin Love (Cavaliers)
  31. Kyle Lowry (Raptors)
  32. JaVale McGee (Cavaliers)
  33. Khris Middleton (Bucks)
  34. Donovan Mitchell (Jazz)
  35. Victor Oladipo (Rockets)
  36. Chris Paul (Suns)
  37. Mason Plumlee (Pistons)
  38. Jayson Tatum (Celtics)
  39. Myles Turner (Pacers)
  40. Kemba Walker (Celtics)
  41. Russell Westbrook (Wizards)
  42. Derrick White (Spurs)

Two players removed from that list are Warriors guard Klay Thompson, who is out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon, and Celtics guard Marcus Smart. Sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic that Smart turned down an invitation because of injury concerns due to having a short offseason and playing late into consecutive seasons (Twitter link).

Mike Conley Replaces Devin Booker In All-Star Game

Jazz guard Mike Conley has been named by Commissioner Adam Silver to replace injured Suns guard Devin Booker on Team Durant in Sunday’s All-Star Game, according to a league press release.

It’s the first All-Star appearance for Conley, who is in his 14th NBA season. He’ll also sub for Booker in the 3-Point Contest, which will be held prior to the game.

Conley is averaging 16.1 PPG and 5.7 APG in 29 games this season for Utah, which has the league’s best record at 27-9. He joins Jazz teammate Donovan Mitchell on Team Durant. Another Jazz starter, Rudy Gobert, is on Team LeBron.

Booker will miss the All-Star extravaganza due to a left knee sprain.  He had been named as an injury replacement for Lakers forward Anthony Davis.

According to NBA rules, when a player selected to the All-Star Game is unable to participate, the Commissioner shall choose a replacement from the same conference.

Mike Conley Hopes To Re-Sign With Jazz

Halfway through his second season with the Jazz, Mike Conley is completely sold on the organization, writes Tony Jones of The Athletic. After an awkward start to last season, the 33-year-old point guard has become comfortable in his role and is hoping for a long-term deal when he reaches free agency this summer.

“Utah’s got me,” Conley said. “I was talking about this to my wife recently. We love it here. I don’t think I can go anywhere else that plays the way we play. We’ll see this offseason, because when that time comes there will definitely be a lot of chatter. But, from where I sit right now, this team is so unique in the way we play. And everyone has bought into what we want to do on both ends of the floor.”

Everything seems to be going well for the Jazz, who hold the league’s best record at 25-6. All the pieces are fitting together and Conley is playing as well as ever, averaging 16.4 points and 5.6 assists per game while leading the league in NBA.com’s list of individual net rating.

Jones notes that there are plenty of reasons for the Jazz to let Conley go if the relationship hadn’t been so successful. Donovan Mitchell handles the ball frequently and could take over as point guard if needed. Conley makes $34.5MM this year, and a new contract will involve a significant financial commitment for a franchise that is already in luxury tax territory.

Even so, Jones suggests Utah’s front office is committed to holding onto Conley.

“What is gratifying is how Mike has come back and adjusted after the initial integration and injuries, and how he has worked his way through a really premature and unfair narrative that a player and a man like himself received,” said executive vice president of basketball operations Dennis Lindsey. “Mike has taught me a lot about what life and sports teaches us.”

Conley’s time in Utah got off to a rough start after the Jazz traded for him in the summer of 2019. A pulled hamstring sidelined him for much of his first season with the team, and he wasn’t playing at his normal level when he was on the court. Things didn’t fully turn around until the restart in Orlando, but there were still whispers that Conley was past his prime and perhaps the trade was a mistake.

Conley hated feeling like he was disappointing Jazz fans, whom he describes as “very passionate.”

“So to start the way I did, not doing anything well, not being able to hit a shot, that wasn’t me,” he said. “And then when the injury came, I wasn’t able to show what I could do. For a while, it felt like anything I did was going to be bad. It was tough. I wasn’t used to negative criticism. I felt like I let the people down.”

That has changed this season, and Conley could be on the verge of an All-Star selection, which has eluded him throughout his career. Mitchell and center Rudy Gobert seem like sure things, and Conley makes no secret of his desire to join them when the reserves are announced later today.

“I think this year, honestly, I’m playing the best basketball of my entire career,” he said. “Being 33 years old, I’ve never had the opportunity to play in the game. I’ve had the door shut so many times. But it’s been so much fun being a part of a team like this that is so unique. We play so unselfishly, and we have a defensive mindset and a physical mentality.”

Northwest Notes: Towns, Conley, T-Wolves, Hernangomez

Timberwolves star center Karl-Anthony Towns continues to recover from the novel coronavirus. Minnesota head coach Ryan Saunders has noted that Towns has made some strides recently as he works his way back, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (Twitter link).

“He’s really been able to push himself,” Saunders said of the Timberwolves’ leading scorer. “Our medical group has been able to try to simulate certain stints during a game, the stopping and going, what that might feel like with his lungs.” Krawczynski adds in a separate tweet that Saunders says Minnesota’s medical team needs to examine the way Towns’s lungs respond to “high-intensity work.”

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • The Jazz can take cold comfort in the fact that, while star point guard Mike Conley is out indefinitely with a hamstring injury, the injury is not considered as severe as a similar hamstring injury he suffered last season, Tony Jones of The Athletic tweets.
  • The Timberwolves‘ youngest players have surprisingly emerged as some of Minnesota’s best, as Michael Rand of The Star Tribune details. Jordan McLaughlin, Anthony Edwards, Jaylen Nowell, Jaden McDaniels, Naz Reid, and Jarred Vanderbilt have impressed with their play of late.
  • After missing nearly three weeks of action due to COVID-19, Timberwolves power forward Juan Hernangomez is now striving to break back into Minnesota’s rotation, according to Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. His younger teammates Vanderbilt and McDaniels have supplanted him in the power forward rotation for now, though Hernangomez enjoyed a productive nine-minute stint last night. “I’m probably the MVP of waiting for my chance,” Hernangomez said. “I’m happy for the young guys to develop. If I get my chance, I’m going to try to do my best.”

Northwest Notes: Nurkic, Jokic, Green, Rubio, Conley

A fractured right wrist may prevent Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic from earning a $1.25MM bonus this season, as Bobby Marks of ESPN notes (via Twitter). Nurkic would earn that bonus if he plays in at least 62 games and Portland wins at least 44 games. Those thresholds are prorated downward from 70 and 50, respectively, to account for the 72-game season.

As we noted last night in our story on Nurkic’s injury, the Blazers do have an open spot on their 15-man roster and an open two-way contract slot, so they have options if they want to add depth up front with Nurkic and Zach Collins (ankle) both sidelined.

Portland is currently $1.87MM below the luxury tax line, according to Marks. Since two-way signings don’t count toward the tax and there’s no deadline to sign a player to a two-way deal this season, that option could appeal more to the Blazers.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Nuggets center Nikola Jokic raved about new teammate JaMychal Green after Thursday’s win over Golden State, as Alex Ladibou of Nuggets.com writes. “I’ve always said JaMychal is a guy I’d like to play with for the rest of my life,” Jokic said. “He is amazing.” A source tells Mike Singer of The Denver Post that Jokic expressed a similar sentiment privately to Green after the game.
  • Britt Robson of The Athletic feels the Timberwolves made a mistake by bringing Ricky Rubio back to Minnesota during the offseason, since Rubio’s style doesn’t mesh particularly well with D’Angelo Russell‘s. Minnesota has a -22.3 net rating so far this season when the two point guards share the court.
  • Mike Conley had a down year in his first season with the Jazz in 2019/20, but is now finding his comfort zone, writes Tony Jones of The Athletic. Conley, an unrestricted free agent in 2021, is averaging 17.3 PPG and 5.6 APG on .452/.430/.774 shooting in 11 games so far in ’20/21 after putting up just 14.4 PPG and 4.4 APG on .409/.375/.827 shooting last season.

Northwest Notes: Conley, Bogdanovic, Horford, Blazers, Morris

Jazz point guard Mike Conley cleared all COVID-19 protocols and practiced in full on Tuesday, Eric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune tweets. Utah has one unnamed player who has yet to be cleared. Conley had close contact with a family member who tested positive, which forced him to the sidelines. He had to produce seven consecutive negative tests before he could exit quarantine.

We have more from around the Northwest Division:

  • Jazz swingman Bojan Bogdanovic says he’ll be ready to play at the start of the season, Tony Jones of The Athletic tweets. Bogdanovic, who underwent wrist surgery in May and missed the restart, has been practicing in full this week.
  • Al Horford and rookie Theo Maledon will join the Thunder once they complete coronavirus protocols, Brandon Rahbar of the Daily Thunder tweets. Horford and Maledon were officially acquired from the Sixers on Monday. “Theo, for a young player, he has a lot of experience and has a certain maturity about him,” new head coach Mark Daigneault said. “Al, we’re very fortunate that he’s here and to have a player of his caliber.”
  • Among the three members of the Trail Blazers organization to test positive for the virus was one player, coach Terry Stotts told Jason Quick of The Athletic (Twitter link). Zach Collins (ankle) and Jusuf Nurkic, who just arrived Sunday, also missed the first practice on Tuesday.
  • The Nuggets are confident backup point guard Monte Morris and EuroLeague import Facundo Campazzo will be able to play together in the second unit, Kendra Andrews of The Athletic writes. Rookie draft pick RJ Hampton will need more seasoning before he’s ready for big minutes, Andrews said. Denver and Morris, one of the team’s top reserves the past two seasons, agreed on a three-year, $27MM extension on Monday.

Northwest Notes: Conley, Anthony, Barton, Miller

Mike Conley is one of two Jazz players in the COVID-19 protocol, though he has tested negative for the virus. He had close contact with a family member who tested positive, which has forced him to the sidelines. He has to produce seven consecutive negative tests before he can exit quarantine, according to the Salt Lake Tribune’s Eric Walden (Twitter links). The other player who is not currently allowed to practice has yet to be named publicly.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Carmelo Anthony realizes he’ll probably be coming off the bench this season with the Trail Blazers but he admits it’s a difficult adjustment for a longtime All-Star, ESPN’s Royce Young tweets. “I tried it in Houston but it was only seven or eight games,” he said. “This is new for me. … I had to take a deep breath and figure it out. We’ll make it work.”
  • Swingman Will Barton believes he should be part of the Nuggets’ starting five, Mike Singer of the Denver Post tweets. “I’m a starter in this league. … I think it’s clear cut,” he said. “I’m a starter. At the end of the day, (it’s up to Coach (Michael) Malone).” Barton missed all of the restart, including Denver’s playoff run, with a knee injury. Barton could wind up competing with Michael Porter Jr. for the small forward spot, though Porter will also see action at power forward.
  • Darius Miller expects to be fully recovered from his Achilles injury by the start of the season, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman writes. “I’m feeling pretty good,” Miller said. “Unfortunately with COVID I haven’t had a chance to play a lot, but the team’s working with me, and they’ve got me going at a pretty good pace.” Miller, who was on the Pelicans roster, missed all of last season due to the injury. He was dealt to the Thunder in the four-team deal that sent Steven Adams to New Orleans.

Mike Conley Opting In With Jazz For 2020/21

Jazz point guard Mike Conley won’t exercise the early termination option on his contract for the 2020/21 season, reports Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (via Twitter).

Unlike a standard player option, an early termination option must be exercised in order for the player to reach free agency immediately — as its name suggests, it ends the contract early. By waiving that ETO, Conley is essentially opting into the final year of his contract in ’20/21. He’ll earn a $34.5MM salary next season before becoming a free agent in 2021.

Conley’s decision doesn’t come as a surprise. Following a somewhat up-and-down first year in Utah in 2019/20, the 33-year-old was unlikely to come anywhere close to matching his $34.5MM salary if he had opted for free agency and signed a new deal — especially with the NBA’s salary cap remaining flat at $109MM.

After 12 seasons with the Grizzlies, Conley was sent from Memphis to Utah last summer. He averaged 14.4 PPG, 4.4 APG, and 3.2 RPG with a .409/.375/.827 shooting line in 47 games (29.0 MPG) for the Jazz. The veteran guard got more consistent and found his footing as the season went on, recording 19.8 PPG and 5.2 APG on .484/.529/.864 shooting in five postseason contests.

With Conley, Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert all locked up for next season and Bojan Bogdanovic expected to be back following wrist surgery, the Jazz will be looking to make a deeper playoff run in 2021. The team is expected to focus on bolstering its wing defense this offseason, as well as possibly extending both Mitchell and Gobert.

Accounting for Conley’s substantial cap hit, Utah is now an over-the-cap team, with approximately $112MM in guaranteed money committed to eight players. Even after adding the cap hold for their first-round pick and multiple non-guaranteed salaries to that figure, the Jazz should have the flexibility to use their full mid-level exception and/or re-sign Jordan Clarkson.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Northwest Notes: Conley, D. Jones, Anthony, Thunder

Jazz guard Mike Conley isn’t expected to exercise an early termination option on his $34.5MM salary for next season, but Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune suggests that he and the team could both benefit if he did. Walden notes that Conley could opt out and sign a new deal that would give him similar money in the long term while offering Utah some immediate cap flexibility.

If Conley plays out his current deal, he will be a 33-year-old unrestricted free agent next offseason and Walden estimates he can expect three-year offers in the $35MM to $40MM range. The Jazz could combine that with his current deal by offering $70MM to $75MM over four years.

That takes away any worry of an injury that could reduce Conley’s value and it cuts his 2020/21 cap figure in half, bringing it down to about $17-$19MM. That could allow Utah to use Bird Rights to re-sign Jordan Clarkson and add players with its mid-level and biannual exceptions without going into tax territory.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Adding free agent forward Derrick Jones Jr. is an easy way for the Trail Blazers to improve their defense, writes Jason Quick of The Athletic. Jones is only 23 and has proven to be an excellent defender who can block shots and switch on pick and rolls. Several teams will likely have their eyes on him, so Quick believes Portland should be willing to offer its entire mid-level exception of roughly $9MM if that’s what it takes to land him.
  • Carmelo Anthony is looking at a reduced role on a healthier Trail Blazers team next season and will probably search for a better opportunity in free agency, Quick adds in the same piece. Anthony saw a lot of minutes before the hiatus at power forward in place of Zach Collins, who was recovering from shoulder surgery. In Orlando, he filled in at small forward for Trevor Ariza, who opted out of the restart. They’re both expected to be in training camp, along with Rodney Hood, who suffered a torn Achilles tendon last December.
  • Joe Musatto of The Oklahoman evaluates potential Thunder coaches Darvin Ham and Wes Unseld Jr. in a pair of stories.