Examining Down The Stretch: Mike Conley

Tom LorenzoContributor IApril 7, 2009

NEW YORK - JANUARY 23:  Mike Conley #11 of the Memphis Grizzlies dribbles the ball on the fastbreak during the game against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden January 23, 2009 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. The Knicks defeated the Grizzlies 108-88. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

I was trying to pass along a nice little nugget to help you as the regular season comes to a close, but I figured that most of you would just print it, roll it in something and smoke it.  And I can’t let these little gems go to waste. 


To be honest with you, with most teams approaching the final two or three games of the 2008-09 regular season there was probably not much left for me to offer.  I can, however, suggest that you continue to monitor some of the promising young players who are going to be on display as the final whistle blows.  Like Mike Conley (PG, MEM), for example. 


Over his last three games Junior is averaging 21.3 ppg, 6.7 apg, 4.3 rpg, 2.3 spg and a mind-blowing 4 three-pointers.  Well it looks like somebody taught the young fella how to shoot jumpers.  Either that or he and O.J. Mayo (PG/SG, MEM) agreed to only show up and play on alternate halves of the season. 


Whatever the case may be, my point here is that in order for you to unlock the next Devin Harris (PG, NJN) or Troy Murphy (PF/C, IND) come next season, you need to be mindful of what is still happening on the court.


If you look at Conley’s body of work this season it’s quite underwhelming.  But if you examine his post All-Star numbers and the way that he’s closing out the season we might be onto something here.  Might Conley be a top-10 point guard in 2009-10?  This is a question we can now only debate thanks to his most recent play.           


Conley was coming close to wearing the tag of being a product of the system.  And that system just so happened to be Greg Oden (C, POR). 


When you’re at the high school level and following around a 7-footer with an adult frame and facial hair to boot, it’s almost too easy to accumulate certain stats.  Heck, I would have been a better playmaker in high school had I been able to lob passes into the paint for Greg Oden and not a 6-foot-4 lumbering big who was the closest thing to a “center” we could find in my neck of the woods.   


Now, those whispers have certainly quieted on Conley.  He has proven to be a fantastic basketball player in his own right and we are starting to witness what I think can be the emergence of a star-talent. 


Again, 10.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg, and 4.2 apg are not what you expect from a cornerstone point guard.  But at 15.0 points, 5.7 assists, 3.8 rebounds, 1.5 steals, and 1.7 three-pointers since the break, Conley has elevated himself into the top-10 point guard debate. 


We’re no longer looking at Conley and wondering whether or not he can be successful without Oden.  In fact we’re looking at Mr. Oden and wondering whether or not he’ll be able to shine without his point guard by his side.