Blog Entry

Grizzlies commit franchise suicide, extend Conley

Posted on: November 2, 2010 2:46 am
Edited on: November 2, 2010 9:41 am
Grizzlies point guard granted 5-year, $45-million extension for mediocrity, continued inconsistency.Posted by Matt Moore

In the long history of terrible moves by the Memphis Grizzlies, mark my words, this one will reign supreme.

Worse than drafting Hasheem Thabeet.

Worse than trading Pau Gasol for Marc Gasol, Kwame Brown, and cash.

Worse than re-signing Rudy Gay for $80 million.

This, this right here, is not just the worst move in the history of the Grizzlies, but it is the shining golden cap on the mountain of terrible moves made by NBA owners over the past 2 years. It is this, exact move, that nullifies any argument the owners can possibly make that they spend their money responsibly inside the current CBA. It is this contract that overshadows Joe Johnson's contract, Amir Johnson's contract, Darko Milicic's contract as the single worst contract handed out in 2010.

ESPN's Chris Broussard and the Memphis Commercial-Appeal reports that the Memphis Grizzlies have agreed to a 5-year, $40-million-plus extension for Mike Conley.

There is really nothing more to say. But here's something anyway.

Mike Conley is the worst starting point guard in the NBA. That's including Derek Fisher, who is at this point both a defensive signpost and a superior point guard. People often wonder why it is I consider this to be so. The reasons are numerous. It's not that Mike Conley is not a good basketball player. He is. He's a career 44% shooter, and 38% from the arc, which isn't bad at all. As a spot-up back-up combo guard, he wouldn't be bad at all. Mike Conley is not a bad NBA player. But there are three things this contract supposes that he is not. He is not a starting caliber point guard. He is not worth $45 million dollars over 5 years. And he is not worth the longterm damage this contract does to the Memphis Grizzlies franchise.

Conley's biggest problems involve things which are extremely hard to identify in the box score. His turnover margin is acceptable, if not stellar. He was 24th in the league last year in assist rate among point guards who played 25 minutes or more. That's not good, at all, but it's not horrific. But if you watched as many Grizzlies games as I have, you'd know certain things. Like, for instance, his dribble probe ability.

Every point guard in the National Basketball Association is able to probe the defense. It involves stepping inside the arc, towards defenders, and maintaining your dribble to see how the defense reacts to penetration. It allows the point guard to evaluate spacing and set up the correct set of decisions. Mike Conley cannot. He will routinely turn his back to a post maneuver, just to avoid losing the ball. This is because he has tremendous difficulty in splitting defenders. This is just one example. He struggles in the pick and roll according to Synergy Sports, averaging just a .79 PPP in the pick and roll and shooting 44% which is a great Field Goal %, but not in pick and roll. Defensively? It's even worse.

Conley surrenders a .96 PPP in Isolation, giving up free throws over 16% of the time. In pick and roll, a .82. It's not horrific. It's just miserably average-to-subpar. This at the most important position on the floor. Bear in mind that Conley plays in a high-octane, weapon-loaded offense that allows him to get out in transition and get easy buckets. Yet he turned the ball over in transition 16.7% of the time.

Advanced stats don't look much better. Conley has never posted a +15 PER, the benchmark of an average player in the league. Conley is only 23, but it would require a monumental improvement in several categories for him to reach the point of actually deserving this kind of contract.

As a comparison? Rajon Rondo makes only $10 million more for his extension than Mike Conley. Rajon Rondo. The guy that just dropped 24 assists in one game for a title contender. That guy makes $2 million more per year, that's it.

But the real problem with this contract?

The damage it does to the future.

Alongside Conley, the Grizzlies needed to extend Marc Gasol, the only real asset they acquired in the Pau Gasol trade. Marc Gasol is arguably the most important player on the team. He is an excellent passer out of both the high and low post. He has a reliable mid-range jumper, is tremendous on the offensive glass, and works his face off on the defensive end. He shows hard and recovers on the pick and roll, maintains low-post position and is active, and continually makes hustle plays. This in a league that is painfully thin on centers. And the Grizzlies have just opened the door for Gasol to walk away in restricted free agency. Zach Randolph has to be re-signed after his contract expires this year, and given the affection the Grizzlies organization has shown Randolph, there's no sign they won't overpay for Z-Bo as well. Which would mean making room for Marc Gasol would be incredibly difficult.

Then next season, you have O.J. Mayo in a similar boat. Looking for an extension. But after the owners' hardline CBA renegotiations get through, how much cap space will they have left? Plus they'll have Hasheem Thabeet coming up soon and a need to justify their drafting of him by waiting for him to develop over the next decade.

So what you're looking at with this extension is the rare combination of a move that's bad in and of itself, and mortgages your ability to win later by most likely expending two of your three best players. You now have $120 million committed to Rudy Gay and Mike Conley over the next six years. That's bad enough, but you'll most likely be losing better players in order to form around that core. It damages you in the short term. This is a player who you have tried to improve upon with Jamal Tinsley, moving O.J. Mayo to point, Greivis Vasquez, Allen Iverson, and I'm pretty sure a clone of John Stockton. But this is the player you have chosen to give $40 million-plus to.

The owners have held the high ground in negotiations regarding the CBA. Even with moves like Darko, Johnson, and the stellar history of Isiah Thomas, the ownership has been able to justify the moves they've made. But this is more damaging than others. This is a clearly B-Level player getting close to $9 million a year.

The Commercial-Appeal reports the decision was largely made upon Conley's strong start to this season. Three games. In a contract year. Featuring a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. This, apparently, is what sets the market in Memphis.

When Ken Berger reported last month that the NBA was considering contraction as a possible solution to its economic woes, I spoke out passionately against it. Small-market fans shouldn't be punished and the overall health of the league nationwide shouldn't be harmed in an attempt by larger market teams to make life easier on them. But after this deal, the question must be raised. Would the Grizzlies be better off if they were simply erased from existence? Is a fan base better off existing in a constant and continual cycle of disappointment and failure, or simply not existing at all?

Mike Conley made $45 million without a single impressive season. And the bizarre, cruel, laughable reign of Michael Heisley continues.


Since: Aug 12, 2007
Posted on: December 24, 2012 3:25 am

Grizzlies commit franchise suicide, extend Conley

I too thought this signing was laughable at the time, but I guess that explains why I'm not an NBA GM and that I'm only 24 (22 then).  Conley is a heck of a player. 

Since: Aug 6, 2008
Posted on: December 18, 2012 8:45 pm

Grizzlies commit franchise suicide, extend Conley

Always fun to look back on this idiot and his moronic article...good call, genius!

Since: Nov 4, 2010
Posted on: April 17, 2011 2:51 pm

I said Matt Moore was an idiot back in Nov

Since: Jul 16, 2008
Posted on: November 5, 2010 12:19 am

Grizzlies commit franchise suicide, extend Conley

I love how the night after this story Conley Goes for 18 points 11 assists and 7 rebounds

Since: Nov 4, 2010
Posted on: November 4, 2010 1:54 pm

Grizzlies commit franchise suicide, extend Conley

Really?  Mike Conley's current PER of 21.24 is 9th among starting PGs.  That's better than Steve Nash, Tony Parker, Chauncey Billups Baron Davis and Deron Williams.  All of whom get paid more than Mike Conley.

I'm not saying Conley is better than those players, but without doubt Conley is younger and improving.

At worst, he will probably finish as a top 15 PG in the league.  At 8 or 9 million/year for the next five years, that's FAR from the worst contract extension in the NBA. 

I don't particularly like the Grizzlies and I do think Rudy Gay is over paid.  However, Conley is paid about market value and even has a chance to prove to be a bargain in about 3 years.

Since: Aug 31, 2006
Posted on: November 4, 2010 10:04 am

Grizzlies commit franchise suicide, extend Conley

Multiple titles?  Lay of the vodka for breakfast.  The Griz showed why they are in the cellar every year with this move.  Maybe not the worst contract in NBA but it was a bad deal and hampers them for years.  120M for Rudy Gay and Conley.  Might as well just burn the money.  You won't get anything but average out of either of those guys.

Since: Nov 4, 2010
Posted on: November 4, 2010 2:09 am

Grizzlies commit franchise suicide, extend Conley

Matt Moore is a complete idiot.

Of all the contracts and contract extensions to complain about in the NBA, Moore thinks the Conley extension is the worst???

What a complete fool.

A 23-year old PG who has an extremely high ceiling as indicated by his draft position of 4th overall, is signed to a 5 year contract for only $8 million per year.  And that's the worst contract?  Have you not seen the contracts of the following players?

These are ONE year salaries, mind you:

Tracy McGrady - $23 million
Jermaine O’Neal - $23 million
Michael Redd - $17 million
Gilbert Arenas - $16 million
Peja Stojakovic - $14 million
Baron Davis - $13 million
Jamal Crawford - $10 million

Without even mentioning Conley's ability, it is already impossible for his contract to be the worst.  He can do NOTHING and still be a better asset to the team than half the players I listed above.

Here's the kicker:
Conley is currently averaging 15.8 pts, 9.2 ast, 5.8 reb, 3.4 stl, 45% FG, 35% 3PT, 68% FT with only 2.6 TO.

There's no reason that he can't maintain close to that level for the season.

Matt Moore is an idiot.

Since: Jul 16, 2008
Posted on: November 3, 2010 1:30 pm

Grizzlies commit franchise suicide, extend Conley

This is honestly the worst story i have ever read on CBSSPORTS and ive read alot i hope Mike Conley becomes a 20 and 10 guy (hes already 16 and 8) and the grizz win multiple titles and i hope you lose your job and become homeless you just commited journalism suicide *******

Since: Aug 25, 2009
Posted on: November 3, 2010 2:18 am

Grizzlies commit franchise suicide, extend Conley

Huh? 45 million dollars over five years for Mike Conley??? This is a move that does surprise me. But then, Jerry West is no longer running the Grizzlies. Would he have made this move? I seriously doubt it. And although I would say that Mr. Moore is engaging in some hyperbole when he identified Mike Conley as the worst point guard in the NBA, he is absolutely correct that this is a move that neither needed to be made at this particular time and which does indeed restrict the franchise's financial flexibility.

Overpaying for Rudy Gay could be argued as being necessary - he is clearly the best player on the team at the present moment. But there are some really nice pieces that will need to be extended and one of which - Marc Gasol - who has the potential of being a lot better. Gasol Jr has some good upside and as Mr. Moore correctly stated, he is a hard worker and is getting better. Will he ever be as good as his brother? Probably not, but he certainly is a better-than-average NBA center. And those are not easy to come by. Point guards on the other hands are relatively easy to find in the draft. Maybe not top-tier points like a Tyreke Evans or Derrick Rose, but serviceable points are not that hard to find. At least when compared to centers. 

So no, Memphis should not have given this contract extension to Conley. Especially not at this time. The kid is in a contract year. Experience shows that mot players do better in their contract year than they do in non-contract years. Yes, there are exceptions to that rule, but most mediocre NBA players tend to over-perform in their contract years. See Jerome James. Sasha Vujacic is another example of a guy who had one fantastic year and since then has produced very little. So why did the Grizz choose to give Conley buckets of cash now? The season has barely started? Wouldn't you want to see a more complete body f work before deciding if you want to give away cash? I certainly would. But instead, Memphis tossed a ton of money at Conley. Three games into the season. That is a head-shaker. WHY??? It is true that all teams have bad contracts once in a while. No team is exempt from thinking that a player is The Next Big Thing and throwing tons of money at him. Event the best-run franchises, such as San Antonio, have succumbed at times. But this is simply absurd and I cannot fathom why Memphis decided that now was such a good time to extend Conley. 

Overall, Mr. Moore's analysis I believe to be correct. This will severely inhibit Memphis' financial flexibility in re-signing their soon-to-be free agents as well as persuading other free agents to join the organization. it is all well and good to be loyal. See Houston-Yao Ming, San Antonio-Tim Duncan/Tony parker and Oklahoma City-Kevin Durant. But those are all superstar players, whose worth is well-established. Mike Conley in contrast is a player who has yet to prove anything. So signing him to a big-money, long-term extension in the very beginning of his contract year is a decision that is questionable at best and downright dangerous at worst. This could turn into an albatross around Memphis' neck in very short order. Similarly to what Joe Johnson's contract will eventually do to Atlanta. And all for no reason - Memphis easily could have waited until the end of the season to decide if Conley was worth an extension. but three games into Conley's contract year? Errr, no.

One other small point. Mr. Moore compared Conley to Los Aneles Lakers guard Derek Fisher. I'm not so sure of the justness of that comparison, but fine - it is certainly true that Fish is getting a little long in the tooth. But Fish is totally fearless (remember the shot he gave Mr. Moving Screen Luis Scola last year in the playoffs?), a superior team defender, a savvy practitioner of the triangle offense, a famously clutch shooter (.4, anyone?) and a superb teammate who is the glue in that LA locker room. Oh - not coincidentally he also has five rings, the same number as Kobe Bryant. Conley may be a great teammate, but he has not yet proven to possess any of the other qualities I just listed that make Fisher so much more valuable than his box score numbers. So I would definitely not compare him with Fisher. A more apt comparison would be with some of the other young points who are still trying to prove themselves - not an established veteran whose value is well-understood around the League. Aside from that small point, i would say that Mr. Moore's analysis is mostly on the money. Bad move by Memphis.

Since: Dec 6, 2007
Posted on: November 2, 2010 11:21 pm

Grizzlies commit franchise suicide, extend Conley

Glad to see all the Grizzlies fans on here, but, give me a break.  Conley isn't worth $45 million.  That's elite status and he's a long way from that.  You pay people based on past performance and he hasn't lived up to that kind of money, yet.  Let's hope he does, but the Grizzlies screwed the pooch on this one.  And the analysis about the future effects on other players contracts is accurate.  The statistical stuff?  I don't have a clue what a PPP is because at some point it becomes useless to know if Conley has good dribble penetration on a Tuesday playing on the road in December with a full moon following a three day weekend.  That's a bit too much analysis of statistics.  

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or