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With the NBA Draft just hours away, Griz fans seem divided into two camps:

1. Draft Rubio, Trade Conley.
2. Keep Conley, Trade Rubio.

But I’d like to take this moment to propose a third option . . . something that maybe — JUST MAYBE — we should consider:

3. Keep Conley. Keep Rubio.

Let’s look at this seriously for a few minutes. Seriously.

Only the Chris Vernons of the world can look at the post-Iavaroni Conley and see thorns. Mike Conley came on strong at the end of the season — getting into the lane frequently and draining three pointers with reasonable accuracy. More importantly, he was beginning to assert himself as a leader on the team, which is something you want in your starting point guard. May I remind you that we’re talking about a guy who got favorable comparisons to Tony Parker this time two years ago, and he’s shown flashes of why. Those of us in the “Keep Conley” camp simply do not want to trade the guy to watch him blow up somewhere else.

On the other hand, there’s no questioning Ricky Rubio’s talent and court vision — or the fact that he’s flat out fun to watch. ABC24 has Rubio saying that all he wants is the opportunity to play: And then he hears “Memphis” in this clip and smile and says “Marc Gasol.”

So here’s the thing nobody seems to be noticing:

Um . . . don’t we NEED a backup PG? You know, since we traded Kyle Lowry? Unless you’re happy with Marko Jaric, that is.

Here’s the deal: For all his raw talent, Ricky Rubio is still only 18 years old and rather skinny. He apparently isn’t known for his jumper either — and guards being able to knock down an open jumper is CRITICAL in the NBA. In my opinion, Rubio will be best served by being allowed to grow into his body and into the NBA by not bringing him along too quickly — i.e. STARTING HIM.

Conley already has some of his veteran stripes, and I believe that if everyone from Heisley and Wallace down to Hollins makes it clear that THE STARTING PG IS MIKE CONLEY, (especially Conley himself, so he won’t be looking over his shoulder) but Rubio will get playing time off the bench, I think it could work.

A couple of other considerations:

  • Remember: Hollins is a point guard coach. He could help Rubio develop just as well as he has helped Mike Conley.
  • Assuming Conley’s arc continues upward, Rubio’s trade value would only increase as he moves from theoretical superstar to proven NBA talent.
  • Don’t forget the Gasol factor. Gasol is respected by both Mike Conley and Ricky Rubio, and he likes both of them. Not that I’d really expect sparks, but I just have a feeling that Marc would help mitigate any flareups — simply by his commitment to team ball and to winning.
  • The OJ factor: Ah yes . . . OJ Mayo. Some say he’s the future at point guard anyway. But a 3-guard rotation of Conley/Mayo/Rubio — all three capable ballhandlers and slashers — sounds kinda scary good to me.

Rubio could conceivably be the energy guy/momentum changer off the bench. His defense is respectable and it looks like he could create easy baskets for a second unit that, as currently constructed, lacks offensive firepower. And we DO need some help off the bench, y’all.

Granted, we still need that veteran power forward — and I think we’ll pick one up this summer. But we also need a backup point guard, and I don’t care how precocious Rubio is, I think it’s smart to bring him along slowly. After all, look no further than the Grizzlies bench to see what happens when you take a highly touted 18-year-old foreigner with the #2 pick and throw him into the fire of unrealistic expectations — it screws his head up and messes with his confidence.

Thoughts, anyone? Could Rubio and Conley peacefully coexist?

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