Memphis Grizzlies 2016-17 Final Review: Mike Conley

Mar 27, 2017; Sacramento, CA, USA; Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley (11) during the second quarter against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 27, 2017; Sacramento, CA, USA; Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley (11) during the second quarter against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports /

Now that the season is over, we can make our final grades for each player. Mike Conley wasn’t the best guard in the league, but he was, without a doubt, the best player on the Memphis Grizzlies.

This was, by far, Mike Conley’s best season. He reached career-highs in points and rebounds, and this year was also his most impactful for the Memphis Grizzlies. After a decade in the league, Conley reached a milestone of 10 total Win Shares this season, regardless of only playing in 69 games. Those 10 shared wins put him above impact players like Nikola Jokic and Hassan Whiteside, and right around All-Stars Kyle Lowry, Chris Paul, and Gordon Hayward. That’s a massive achievement from a team that needs as much firepower as they can get from their starters.

Mike Conley is only a year removed from receiving his bright and shiny new contract, and he proved he was worth it. While the Memphis Grizzlies look to finish the championship puzzle, at least they have no worries when it comes to who will run the point.


Not only did Conley do more scoring this season, but he was also more efficient than he ever has been in his career, shooting an incredible 54 percent (eFG%). The stat is even more impressive when you compare it to his 26.3 USG% – another career high. So, we have covered the fact that Mike Conley had a great year, using only two stats. Good.

Some of you may be expecting a, “He should-be All-Star…”, but that’s not going to happen because he isn’t. I apologize, but that bothers me. I have given a great case for why Conley should be considered one of the premier guards, but the killer instinct that seldomly comes out hurts him.

This year, the Grizzlies had a strong start, but fizzled out quickly. Much of that was due to injuries to key players – including Conley, who missed close to 10 games with a severe back injury. Luckily, a quick recovery had him back to carrying the Grizzlies’ backcourt in no time. He came out every game, waited until he saw his teammates weren’t scoring as well as they should be, then took the reins. Every game, fans were just waiting for the “Conley-show” to start. It was like clockwork, and it was borderline heroic.

You knew that if Marc Gasol continued to miss on his variety of patented post-moves, Mike Conley was going to get the green light. The only problem with that, we have seen that Conley cannot win a game on his own. His highest scoring games this season were against teams that struggle to guard quick point guards like Conley. Ultimately, that shouldn’t count against him, but it should be noted. Overall, his offense has been nothing short of expectations. It all depends on whether he can keep it up. As long the Memphis Grizzlies find the right support for Conley, he can be the guard for a championship winning team.

Offensive Grade: A Freakin’ Plus


Ah, defense, you fickle mistress.

Sometimes size is all the matters, while other times, foot speed and hand-eye coordination is the most important. Either way, Conley’s speed, hands, and defensive focus has not changed. He won’t shy away from any matchup, mainly because he’s not allowed to, but that’s beside the point. With the talent of point guards in the league, many teams send their best backcourt defender to guard the likes of Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, and Steph Curry. For the Grizzlies, Mike Conley assumes that role without hesitation.

A high-quality, two-way point guard is an underrated aspect that most coaches should want. This makes Conley valuable, but it also makes him expendable. As sad as it is to say, defense is overrated in the NBA. These players have become so good at what they do, that impeccable defense sometimes isn’t enough. With that being said, Conley’s defense night in and night out is something that should be revered. He has been a consistent source of just about anything you can ask for out of a point guard. He keeps a hand in every shooter’s face – not to mention that ball-handlers can’t lose focus or Conley will have his hands all in your business trying to get a steal.

Overall, his defense took a slight downturn. It did, but it really isn’t his fault. As the Grizzlies shifted their focus to offense, he had to do more for this team. It should be no surprise that defense comes as the sacrifice. Anyways, what he has done this season, aside from defense, has made him a commodity the Grizzlies are happy they paid for.

My defensive grade may be low, but think if Mike Conley truly deserves an A for his defense. Think about it.

Defensive Grade: B+

Final Grade: A

This pains me to say,  but this was the peak of Mike Conley’s career.

Heading into his eleventh season, we will either see the painful downslope of his career, or the incredible efficiency of a player knowing his role. Either way, his usage rate won’t repeat, and much of this success could be since he’s filthy stinkin’ rich. There’s a reason players tend to play better after contract seasons, and Grizz fans should hope this isn’t the case. Conley proved to be worth the money this season, looking like the ideal player Memphis can restructure around.

It’s now up to the front office to maximize Conley’s strengths so that maybe, just maybe, Conley will finally get his long-lost All-Star accolade.