Point guard Mike Conley could reach new heights with the Utah Jazz, who will be a contender next season in spite of the other blockbuster moves in the West.
On Monday, the Utah Jazz officially introduced their two biggest offseason acquisitions — Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic — at a press conference in Las Vegas. By and large, it was standard fare for an intro presser; both players thanked the organization, halfheartedly expressed their excitement, yada yada yada.
And yet, it felt different from when the team has introduced new guys in recent years. Even in a familiar situation, there’s a different vibe about the Jazz band; an unmistakable air of optimism.
Things are different now. In spite of the blockbuster moves made around the Western Conference, i.e. Kawhi and PG-13 to the Clips, AD joining LeBron in La-La Land, the Jazz are a legitimate contender for the first time in at least a decade. Maybe more.
Conley is the reason why.
After the presser, the former Grizzlies the floor general joked about switching jersey numbers; his No. 11 will stay in Memphis where it will be retired. In turn, the same number will continue to be worn by Dante Exum in Utah, “I approached him immediately to let him know I was going to change my number,” said Conley.
And while Conley is 32 now and we’re all well familiarized with what he does on the basketball court at this point, the change in team and change in number are symbolic of the change Conley will see as a player in his new digs.
Same old Conley? Sure, but an entirely new one at the same time. And that guy is going to get this Jazz squad lit.
Next season, Conley will be playing in an system that should elevate him offensively. Quin Snyder’s offensive scheme generated more wide open looks for the Jazz than any other team in the Association enjoyed last season. And Conley was a 43-percent wide-open 3-point shooter in his last year with the Grizz.
This isn’t lost on Conley; “I’ll have space like I’ve probably never seen before.”
He’ll also benefit from an entirely different brand of teammate. “Rudy [Gobert] is going to be a whole other animal,” he said, talking about the Jazz center’s elite skills as a roll man and finisher. Donovan Mitchell is a different animal, too, and is already the best backcourt player he’s ever partnered with before the two have even shared the court.
Bogdanovic is a big part of the equation as well. Without question, the Croatian sharpshooter is one of the best floor-spacers in the NBA. His presence on the perimeter will open things up for Conley and the rest of the Jazz substantially.
Between he and Ingles behind the arc, Gobert rim-rolling and Mitchell creating for himself and others all over the floor, opposing defenses will have to play the Jazz straight-up or suffer the consequences. That will leave Conley to shred his man with a pinpoint J or his famed off-hand floater on the regular.
No one has ever talked about a Year 13 jump, but all the ingredients are there for Conley to make it a thing. All he as to do is stay healthy, which is probably the only big question about the Conley era of Jazz basketball. It’s a huge one, too — the key to everything we’re talking about.
If he can do it, though, we’re going to see some new tricks from the old dog and the Jazz will reach new heights as a result.
The same ol’ Jazz this definitely ain’t, and Conley is the reason why.