Thursday, May 1, 2008

Season in Review: Mike Conley

Mike Conley had a tough rookie season. The season opened with him not in the regular rotation and ended with him starting but in between were many ups and downs. Mostly downs in his injury filled season.

The Grizzlies nearly lost more games through November (10) than Conley did in college and high school combined (11). Various injuries caused him to miss 29 games during the season including a nasty shoulder injury that nearly ended his season. Had surgery been required it would have been the 2nd consecutive year a rookie PG had been lost for the seaso due to injury for the Grizzlies. In the 53 games he did play Conley started 46 and looked remarkably calm running the point for a 20 yr old. As the season progressed he became more comfortable being aggressive with the ball and by the end of the year Conley was putting up big numbers averaging 14.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg and 4.3 apg in April.

Due to some interesting substitution patterns and the shoulder injury Conley didn't make his first regular season appearance at FedEx Forum until January 6th but he made a good first impression in his first appearance in front of the home crowd with 11 pts, 5 rebounds and 7 assists against Miami, his old AAU buddy DeQuan Cook and former Grizz PG Jason Williams. An impressive start to say the least. However the grind of the season, another injury and rookie hesitation caused him to become somewhat erratic and often tentative as the season progressed. It seemed like Conley was more concerned about not making a mistake rather than making a play.

This was most obivous in March. It is rumored he sat down with Coach Iavaroni durin gthe month and discussed his situation. Supposedly Coach I told him that he was going to play the player who was producing and Lowry was producing. He is rumored to have told Conley that when Mike decides he wants to be more aggressive he will get more playing time. Whether or not this rumor is true is unknown but Conley became more aggressive after that point of the season. Mike scored in double figures in 7 of the last 10 games 5 straight games to end the year. He set his career high in points with 25 against Phoenix on April 12th.

Outside of the injuries the real concern with Mike was his defense. Mike is undersized at the point and struggled with more physical PG's like Deron Williams and Chris Paul who can post him up. Mike's leaping ability (40 inch vertical) will allow him to be effective rebounding long misses but he is not built to bang with more physical players like Kyle Lowry is able to do. The surprise was his lack of tenacity on the perimeter however. Conley is blazing fast yet averaged less than a steal a game. With his quickness Mike needs to become more aggressive in passing lanes and harassing slower PG's off the dribble. Perhaps the injuries made him tentative, perhaps the pace of the game but regardless of the excuse Mike will need to creat more turnovers to earn greater playing time.

I suppose you could say Mike needs to be more aggressive on offense, like he showed in April, and on defense which means he either suffered from the traditional rookie wall or is just too tentative as a person. Judging from his performances in the NCAA tournament last year I don't believe Conley is too tentative. Conley routinely stepped up at Ohio State in pressure situations. Perhaps playing with Greg Oden, his best friend aided that confidence but he will need to become more aggressive at this level to be considered a success. Only time will tell if that happens.

It is obvious that Memphis is rebuilding their team with youth and at this point Conley is definately part of the plan for the future. When comparing Conley to other short, quick PG's in the league as rookies the picture is not bleak. Conley averaged 9.4 ppg, 2.6 rpg and 4.3 apg this season. He shot 43% from the field and 33% from the arc. Tony Parker averaged 9.2 ppg, 2.6 rpg and 4.3 apg as a rookie in San Antonio and he had David Robinson, Manu Ginobilli and Tim Duncan to pass the ball. Parker shot 42% from the field and 32% from the arc. Parker also has developed into one of the most imposing PG's in the league and won the MVP award for the NBA Championship last year.

I think most Grizzlies fans would be content with Conley developing along those lines.

I had to put this hear. It is just too cool to watch!

BallHype: hype it up!

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