Mar 15, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley (11) salutes after making a three point shot against the Philadelphia 76ers during the second half at Wells Fargo Center. The Grizzlies defeated the 76ers, 103-77. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Conley: How to steal a basketball 101

Mike Conley and the art of the steal

The Memphis Grizzlies are one of the NBA’s best defensive teams, and it all starts at the top with point guard Mike Conley.

Conley is known for being a quick, agile point who can hit some threes and push the ball exceptionally well.  He is also a prolific slasher and can drop acrobatic finishes in around the rim.  Conley keeps the ball moving, and allows the Grizzlies to play at a solid pace.

As good as he is on the offensive side of the ball, his biggest strengths lie in his defensive play.  Conley’s quickness allows him to stay in front of ball handlers and stop other guards from penetrating.  In addition, his athleticism and footwork allow him the aptitude to be a great defender.

That being said, the most important part of Conley’s defensive game is his IQ.  He plays the ball exceptionally well and has the awareness to know where it will be in certain situations.  This allows him to anticipate passes and come up with steals.

He is also probably the best player in the league when it comes to reaching in for a steal without fouling.  He can pickpocket without touching the offensive player regularly, like he did against Philadelphia a few years ago:

Conley steals, Conley finishes

 

In fact, over the past few years he has been a top five player in the steals category.  It was only this past season that his numbers dropped off, as he “only” averaged 1.5 per game.  The prior two he was at 2.2 per game, which was good enough for second in the league in ’12 and third in ’13.

The other thing that Conley excels at is pushing the break after a steal.  His teammates know that if he grabs a steal, then they need to book it down the floor.  Conley is extremely fast and can finish the break on his own, but it’s much easier when he has someone to pass to up front.

The Mike Conley-Tony Allen connection

 

Although, as noted, he can do it on his own as well.  Conley can can fly down the court and alter his shot as needed to put the ball in the hoop.

The Mike Conley Quadruple Threat: Theft, Drive, Drop, AND ONE.

 

Mike Conley even does it against the almighty Spurs

 

Conley has only gotten better over the years in terms of his defense, and we can look for that trend to continue.  His steals numbers dipped off a bit this past season, but don’t take that as a sign of regression.  Sometimes numbers just don’t tell the whole story, and that’s the case here.

When it’s all said and done, there’s one player on the Grizzlies who could teach “The Art of the Steal 101″, and that player, is Mike Conley.

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