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Tag:Hasheem Thabeet
Posted on: December 1, 2010 2:51 am
 

The Mike Conley apology post

Matt Moore does some self-criticism in light of Mike Conley's emergence as a legit point guard following the Grizzlies' win over the Lakers Tuesday night.
Posted by Matt Moore


I.... overreacted .

This is a tricky subject, but starting off with that makes it sound like I'm trying to get around the subject. I'm not. I will be telling you, in pain-staking, crow-eating, I-screwed-up fashion why and how I was wrong in my outright evisceration of Mike Conley, at least through the first month of the season. But I also can't approach this as simply a "Mike Conley has made the leap and everything I said was wrong" instance. I wasn't, about some things. This also isn't meant to be an outright capitulation of my opinion. But unlike a lot of sportswriters, who are justified in their approach, I don't believe it hurts me to admit when I'm wrong. My job is to try and entertain you and occasionally give you some level of insight into the league. To say that I'm never wrong is to buy into a culture which abhors the idea that we all have more to learn about the game, or that these players we watch and nitpick over can't surprise us. And they can. Mike Conley has.

Here's what I got right, still, at this point.

The 5-year, $40 million extension to Mike Conley was foolhardy, penny wise and pound foolish. In committing the money to Conley before he had played more than five games, the Grizzlies denied themselves the opportunity to see what the market would bear out for Conley in restricted free agency this summer. They bid against themselves and still managed to lose. They still likely overpaid in the  long run considering his importance in the long-term success of the team. Furthermost, it's still hard to see, despite assurances from Heisley himself to some of his favorite media outlets, how he's going to justify spending the money necessary to keep the core of this team together, the same core which took down the Lakers in impressive fashion Tuesday night despite a near-loss.

Doing so would require likely overspending on Zach Randolph, which is a much more justifiable over-expense than Mike Conley was back in the first week of November. It means finding a reasonable value for Marc Gasol, who is arguably the most important and second best overall player on the team behind Rudy Gay. And then it means still finding enough left to invest in O.J. Mayo, who despite his struggles, still has the capacity to light up teams for 35 on any given night, and whose clutch play down the stretch against the Lakers, particularly in his defense of Kobe Bryant's pull-up to tie (which forced a jump-pass to Ron Artest which was blocked) was an example of the performance he can give. Re-signing all those players seems unlikely, especially with a second overall pick used on Hasheem Thabeet and another first rounder taken on now-starter Xavier Henry.

I can't say that the money invested in Conley was wise at the time, or in the context of building towards the future in Memphis, no matter how relatively painless the extension may be to swallow . It was yet another example of Michael Heisley's misguided leadership and meddling in the affairs of a relatively shrewd talent evaluator in Chris Wallace.

And that about sums up what I got right. Wrong? I'm going to FJM myself now, if you don't mind (which I'm sure is nicer than some of the other things Grizzlies fans want me to do myself).

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

Worse than drafting Hasheem Thabeet .

Okay, stop, right there. Two sentences in, just stop. This was not nearly as bad as drafting Hasheem Thabeet. Know how I know? Tyreke Evans, Brandon Jennings, Stephen Curry, Darren Collison. Thanks.

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.

Given the improvements Conley's made to his game (which we'll get to, don't worry), it would be ludicrous to assess him as the 30th worst point guard in the NBA. He's not a top 10. He is solidly in the 18-12 range, depending on the night and the matchup. He's still obliterated by the elite point guards in the NBA, but blaming him for that would be like blaming a cow moose for not outrunning a gazelle from the cheetah. It still has a better chance than the heifer grazing blissfully. Also, if you wanted evidence of Conley's superiority over Fisher, look no further than Tuesday's matchup where it wasn't just the numbers Conley put together (28 points, 3 assists), it was the vast array of ways he destroyed Fisher's "defense."

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.
Okay, so he's only up to 23rd (going into Tuesday night's games). Considering his usage is at a career high, we can live with that.
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.
Yeah, all this is gone. While I know Conley read the piece I wrote about him, he no doubt didn't care or adjust his game based on my analysis. Players don't do that, because a. what do we know? And b. you can drive yourself nuts doing that. That said, it sure seems like he's almost deliberately showing off this ability with every game. His probe-dribble has become deadly, with a hesitation just inside the arc forcing defenders to close before bursting through and to the rim. It's gone from a massive struggle for him to a significant advantage against slow or inexperienced guards.
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.
He's raised his Points Per Possession to .812, shooting 46%. It's not worlds better, but it's an improvement from "bad." Likewise, his spot-up shooting has become brilliant with an adjusted field goal percentage (factoring 3-pointers) of 53%.

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.

Okay, so not everything's improved. He's still turning the ball over 16.2% of the time in transition and is now surrendering a .95 PPP in the pick and roll. Rome wasn't built in a day.

Advanced stats don't look much better. Conley has never posted a +15 PER, the benchmark of an average player in the league.
Conley entered the night with a 15.70 PER . And that's after a mini-slump. And it's likely to rise after a high-efficiency, high-usage night against LA.


But none of these things can encapsulate the real improvements in Conley. He's made the jump to being a legit starting point guard who you can rely on to set the offense, make the right decision, and execute the play. He's no longer overwhelmed with pressure. On the Grizzlies' last possession, he navigated the Marc Gasol pick, and swung short to drive. His move was to lob the pass to Marc Gasol. Pau Gasol raised his boat-oar arms and snatched it away. Upon first watch, it looked like your run-of-the-mill Conley turnover. But his decision was sharp, it was correct, the move precise, the pass on target. Pau Gasol just made a great defensive play. Considering the disaster the Lakers ran in their final possession, it looks like a dream.

Mike Conley is not an elite point guard, but he's also not paid like one . But for a player who was decimated by fans and media, and most especially by me, after his extension, he's made good on it. He's become a starting-caliber point guard, and has been a huge part of why the Grizzlies find themselves... well, 8-10. The bench is still terrible. But point guard is no longer a position of need, at least right now, for the Memphis Grizzlies.  This can surely change as the months stretch on to become a season, but it's in our best interest for me to tell you, that provided he does not regress:

I was wrong about Mike Conley.
Posted on: November 2, 2010 2:46 am
Edited on: November 2, 2010 9:41 am
 

Grizzlies commit franchise suicide, extend Conley

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.



Posted on: October 25, 2010 12:33 pm
Edited on: August 14, 2011 8:03 pm
 

Memphis owner: fans shouldn't worry about future

Memphis Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley tells fans they shouldn't worry about the team's future in Memphis. Posted by Ben Golliveroj-mayo The word of the week in the NBA has been contraction. Once Ken Berger broke the news that reducing the number of teams in the NBA from 30 was an option that will be considered during upcoming rounds of Collective Bargaining between owners and players, the spotlight started shining on the league's struggling franchises, with an apparent gap developing between rich and poor.  Small-market Sacramento Kings co-owner Gavin Maloof came out quickly to state unequivocally that the Kings wouldn't be contracted or sold, while big-market former Los Angeles Lakers co-owner Magic Johnson came out in favor of contraction. Over the weekend, another small-market owner, Michael Heisley of the Memphis Grizzlies, was interviewed by Geoff Calkins of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal about the future of the Grizzlies, who are celebrating their 10th anniversary season in Memphis but are struggling to fill their stadium. Calkins asks Heisley whether the Grizzles can survive another 10 years.
"I don't know if I'll make it to a 20th year!" he says.
Heisley laughs. Even at 4 a.m., the man has a point. Who knows what will happen over the course of the next decade? Who knows if the Grizzlies will still be here in 2020? Who knows if Heisley -- now 77 -- will even be around to own the team? "I don't think it's something for people to worry about," Heisley says.
Making promises you can't keep is a cardinal sin for a professional sports team owner, so Heisley plays this one correctly, re-assuring the team's fans without committing to something he can't certainly deliver.  Calkins goes on to paint a morbid picture -- a half-empty FedEx Forum, talk of relocation at the team's 10th birthday party -- but he also points out that the team's arena deal and the depressed national economic state work against a Grizzlies relocation plan. The Grizzlies almost always make the short list for teams that might be contracted, given their attendance, struggles to make the post-season, and the fact that the team is in Memphis after relocating from Vancouver, in probably the best case of an expansion going wrong for the NBA.  One thing's for sure: no team that has been included in the contraction discussion has more talent than the Grizzlies. Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol, OJ Mayo, Mike Conley and Hasheem Thabeet would make for one heck of a dispersal draft.  Thanks to Heisley, however, that fantasy doesn't sound like it's in play any time soon.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com