Feb 8, 2013; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley (11) brings the ball up court during the game against the Golden State Warriors at the FedEx Forum. Memphis Grizzlies defeat the Golden State Warriors 99-93. Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden–USA TODAY Sports

Just How Good Is Mike Conley?

It’s amazing to think that just few years ago, people thought Mike Conley was a below average point guard. His 5-year , $45 million deal was derided as being way too pricey considering the services he provided. In the time sense, however, Conley has improved immensely, and he is now an essential part of the Grizzlies offense. As anyone who watches the team can tell you, the Grizzlies thrive when Conley is on the court, and they tend to fade whenever he goes away. His value to the team is immeasurable at this point.

Some of have even suggested that can hang with the best point guards in the league. Aaron McGuire of Gothic Ginobili suggested that he was close to being an elite point guard, while Nico Baguio of Hoops Habit ranked him as the 5th point guard in the NBA. So, is Conley that good? In terms of pure skill, probably not. Conley isn’t going to make freakish passes like Rajon Rondo or Ricky Rubio, nor is he going to shoot the lights out like Steve Nash. Luckily, those are not the only metrics by which a point guard can be measured, and when it comes to getting teammates involved, Conley is one of the best in the game.

This is difficult to quantify, because there’ no stat for it, but Conley instincts are among the best in the game. He knows when to feed the ball to Marc Gasol or Zach Randolph in the post, and he knows when to fire up a shot himself. Unlike Rondo, who can do amazing things, but has an unfortunate tendency to chose a pass over an easy shot just to get the assist numbers up, Conley almost always makes the right decision. No one’s perfect in this area, which is why Conley memorably erred in the Grizzlies first round series against the Clippers, when he passed to Rudy Gay in a situation where he would have been better off taking the shot himself. Still,it can’t be denied that most of time, Conley is an excellent decision maker. He just knows what play needs to be made, and then he makes it.

Conley is also a better defensive player than he looks. While he doesn’t display the ferocious intensity of Tony Allen, opposing point guards have a difficult time getting past Conley on the court, as he currently holds is very low defensive rating of 100. His most notable defensive quality is his ability to rack up steals. He’s currently second in the league in that category, trailing only Chris Paul. Considering how many times the Grizzlies go through nasty offensive droughts, the steals really come in handy. When a player can steal the ball, run from one side of the court to another and put in an easy layup, it tends to inspire the offense to get things going again.

After years of being considered either below average of middle of the pack, Conley has finally established himself as one of the better point guards in the league. He doesn’t have the immaculate skills of some of the best players of the position, but he’s an excellent decision maker who can generate turnovers, and play ridiculously tight defense. More importantly,   he gives the Grizzlies just what they need to compete on offense, and without him they struggle. Maybe Conley isn’t on the level of Cp3, but it can’t be denied that he helps this team immensely, and any NBA franchise would be lucky to have him in their backcourt.

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