Everyone knew Mike Conley was important for the Grizzlies this season. I doubt many people felt heading into the season that he was quite possibly the most important player not just for this season but in any season.
Conley is the leading the Grizzlies in points scored, assists, minutes played per game, assists to turnovers, steals, and PER with a rating of 21.3 (15.0 is considered an average player). No player in franchise history has ever led all of these categories before. More importantly, the Grizzlies are 2-5 in games Mike Conley has missed this season. If Mike doesn’t play Tuesday night he will likely be sidelined until after the All-Star break.
To put this into perspective, on a team ravaged by injuries this season, this is the team’s record when anyone else doesn’t play for any reason in a game:
Marc Gasol – 10-13
Tony Allen – 15-9 (and counting)
Zach Randolph – 1-1
Tayshaun Prince 2-1
Ed Davis – 4-3
Kosta Koufas – 1-0
Jon Leuer – 14-3
Nick Calathes – 7-3
Jamal Franklin – 17-12
Quincy Pondexter – 19-14 (and counting)
Courtney Lee and James Johnson haven’t missed any games since being acquired. Mike Miller hasn’t missed a game all season for any reason. Who would have predicted that before the season?
But let me get back to Conley and how valuable he has been to the Grizzlies this season. The Grizzlies have a .500 or better record whenever a player has missed a game except for Gasol and Conley. Gasol was 3 games below .500 after 23 games. Conley is 3 games under .500 after 5.
There have been numerous games this season where the Grizzlies were floundering, unable to muster any energy and looking like they were about to lose a game, only to see Conley turn on the speed, attack the rim, make a crucial three-point shot or get a turnover that changes the game in the Grizzlies favor.
Conley’s maturation hasn’t been fully accepted around the league just yet, his All-Star snub being just one example. In fairness, he is playing probably the deepest position in the league, and his team’s not exactly set up for major numbers from Conley. However, when one looks beyond the easy numbers and flashy plays, you discover that Mike Conley is a truly remarkable player in today’s game.
That’s quite a leap from the days when people were clamoring for Conley to be benched in favor of Kyle Lowry. After Lowry came the Great Mayo PG Debate where no less than Chris Vernon himself pleaded for the front office to make Mayo the PG over Conley. While an argument could still be made for Lowry over Conley, if you were around for that “locked door” era, it is tough to find many people willing to back Lowry nowadays. And absolutely no one is suggesting Mayo should be starting in Memphis at SG much less PG anymore.