Mike Conley Is Worth Every Penny of His $153 Million Contract
During the first day of NBA free agency, a total of $1 billion in guaranteed contracts was handed out by owners looking to lock up big name free agents.
Even some NFL players like DeAngelo Williams got in on the hot takes about how much money was being doled out.
Call me a hater but these NBA deals are insane I have to google the players getting paid🤔🤔 #nonamechecks #productiondoesntcount
— DeAngelo Williams (@DeAngeloRB) July 1, 2016
Needless to say, everyone has a hot take on the money NBA free agents are signing for this offseason, and one of the players catching flak on his new contract is Mike Conley, who just resigned with the Memphis Grizzlies for five years and $153 million.
Conley is entering his 10th NBA season, and coming off a down year where he got hurt and missed a solid chunk of the season, he was still able to sign a massive contract that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago thanks to the huge jump in the NBA's salary cap. However, Conley's production over the last few years does not only warrant his new contract, it could end up being a bargain next season if he continues to produce like a top point guard.
Hey Now, You're (Not) an All Star
The biggest knock on Conley's new contract is that he has never been voted as an All Star, which doesn't take into account the massively flawed voting system.
I could go on for another 2,000 words on why fan voting for the All Star starters is horrible, but I'll spare you the tirade. The fact is Conley plays in the smallest NBA market, and therefore the coverage he (and the rest of the Grizzlies) gets is little to none compared to most of the bigger NBA cities. People just don't realize how solid Conley is on both ends of the court, and so he gets little credit for the fact that he is easily one of the better two-way point guards in the league.
Last year, Conley had an assist rate of 32.7%, the highest mark of his career. While he isn't a flashy scorer like Stephen Curry or electric athlete like Russell Westbrook, Conley has several attributes as a point guard that makes him just as valuable to his team as those guys.
Just three seasons ago Conley was behind only Curry, Westbrook and Chris Paul in wins shares among point guards at 9.9, and while he may not fall within the top five rankings in several point guard categories, Conley's production over the last five years can't be ignored.
|Point Guard Win Shares from 2011-2016||Win Shares||Defensive Win Shares|
According to win shares, Conley is a top five point guard over the last five years. The list doesn't include Damian Lillard, who definitely fits the bill with 35.2 win shares through his first four seasons. However, Conley's production on both ends is comparable to the top point guards in the league, which is a big reason why he was paid so handsomely this offseason.
Conley led the league in steals back in 2012-'13, and he was second in steals the year before that. In 2010-'11 he finished fifth in steals. He has twice been ranked inside the top five in steal rate, and in the same year he led the league in steals (2013), he was named to the NBA's All-Defensive Second Team.
Conley is also a very good perimeter defender. While his overall defended field goal percentage is usually slightly below or right at average, in the last three seasons he has held players he defends to below their average 3-point percentage.
On the offensive end, Conley is a great ball handler and pick and roll player. Enjoy the below video of Conley murdering Eric Bledsoe's ankles as proof.
Conley ranked 10th among point guards in points per possession as an offensive ball handler last season at 0.86. He is also coming off his best offensive rating of his career at 115. While his efficiency has dropped some over the last few seasons, Conley's ability to make plays on both ends warrants his contract. He also finished with a real plus-minus of 2.71, which ranked sixth among point guards this past season.
Point Guard Market
The free-agent pool this summer in the NBA was full of great players, but supply and demand is a key factor in how teams pay free agents. The fact Conley was easily the best point guard in what was a slim point guard market likely added to the Grizzlies' desire to lock him up early in free agency. That means they probably had to make a big offer up front, because if they didn't, they might have lost him to another team.
Considering the next best point guards on the market were Rajon Rondo or Jeremy Lin, the Grizzlies simply could not afford to play hard ball with Conley, who we have already established is worthy of being paid like an elite point guard.
It remains to be seen how the Conley contract will look by the time it gets to the year 2020, when he will be making north of $34 million. However, this upcoming season, Conley's salary will be well under 30 percent of the Grizzlies' cap, which, combined with his solid and consistent production, makes this a great signing for the Grizzlies. Along with newly inked Chandler Parsons, and Marc Gasol, the Grizzlies have a solid core, and they still have plenty of money to round out their roster with quality players.