Does Mike Conley Have a Future With the Utah Jazz?

Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley (Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports)
Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley (Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports) /

Mike Conley’s days as a member of the Utah Jazz are growing short. With trade rumors heating up around Donovan Mitchell, the face of the franchise, and the recent trade of star center Rudy Gobert to the Minnesota Timberwolves, it is almost definite that the Jazz are heading towards a rebuild. It is unlikely Mike Conley, 35, will stay with the franchise through a rebuild, with his career coming to an end. It is mutually beneficial for the organization and Conley to find a trade partner since Conley will look to play for a playoff team, and the Jazz will want to receive as many assets as possible for their rebuild.

Utah Jazz: Where will Mike Conley end up in 2023?

Conley is coming off a season where he started and played in 72 games, averaging over 28 minutes a game, scoring 13.7 points, and dishing out 5.3 assists per game, all while shooting almost 41% from three. Conley will be able to have a meaningful impact on a team contending for the NBA title.

Before the 2021 season, Conley signed a 3-year $68 million contract. His cap hit next season is $22.68 million, and the year following it will be even higher at $24.36 million. Most contenders do not have the salary cap space to bring in a player like Conley without giving up essential assets, something they are not willing to do, which creates a market for Conley that is not as big as Utah is hoping.

Danny Ainge, the new CEO of the organization, will seek young players who can play a role in the rebuild and/or a first-round pick in return for Conley, a price many teams will not be willing to pay, shrinking Conley’s market even further. There is a good chance that Conley is on the Utah Jazz to begin the 2022 season, but as the trade deadline approaches and teams are dealing with injuries or looking for that player to take them to the next level, teams will be more willing to give up draft capital for Conley.

Given other teams’ expectations for 2022 and their current cap situation, I have come up with a few potential landing spots for Conley. The Miami Heat, Phoenix Suns, and Dallas Mavericks are the most likely destinations, given their championship pedigree roster and trade packages that work with the salary cap rules.

Let’s examine three possible trades that could send Conley to either Miami, Phoenix, or Dallas.

The Miami Heat Package

I expect Miami to be willing to give up Duncan Robinson after his lack of minutes down the stretch in last year’s NBA Playoffs. His cap hit of about $17 million in 2022 helps balance the salaries well, but the Jazz would need another player to make the trade go through. Ömer Yurtseven and Haywood Highsmith are players the Heat could give up to make this trade balanced per the NBA salary cap rules. Whether or not the Heat will also throw in a first-round pick is up in the air, but Heat President, Pat Riley, might do it if he thinks this deal will help the Heat win their first title since 2013.

The Phoenix Sun Package

Phoenix would be a great landing spot for Conley to back up Chris Paul. Phoenix’s package is headlined by Landry Shamet and Dario Saric, who are the keys to making this deal work by balancing salary cap problems. Shamet, Saric, and a first-round pick for Conley is a deal that would be put through per salary cap rules and is a real possibility. In this mock trade, I included Cameron Payne and Jarred Vanderbilt for two reasons. Firstly, Conley will take a lot of the backup point guard minutes that Payne is used to seeing, and secondly, Vanderbilt is an upgrade over Saric and possibly enough for the Jazz to receive a first-round pick from the Suns in return. In my eyes, this is a deal that would elevate the Suns in the Western Conference and one that I believe that they should accept.

The Dallas Mavericks Package

After losing starting guard Jalen Brunson in free agency, the Mavericks should be looking for a player like Conley to add to their roster for next season. Conley could slide into the starting lineup in place of Brunson, but the Mavericks also might be looking to give the younger Spencer Dinwiddie more minutes and bring Conley off the bench. Either way, Conley is a good fit in Dallas and can elevate the Mavericks team looking to build on their trip to the Western Conference Finals this past season. A package of Davis Bertans, Frank Ntilikina, and a first-round pick is likely enough to get Danny Ainge to pull the trigger and send Conley to Dallas. Bertans is a necessary piece in any trade negotiations between Dallas and Utah for Conley to help level the salary caps, and between Josh Green and Ntilikina, I think the Mavericks are more willing to give up on the latter.

If Conley does not head to either of these three teams, the Toronto Raptors and Indiana Pacers are other potential suitors, but it seems unlikely that either team would be willing to give up many assets for Conley as his career is nearing its completion. The Raptors are more ready to take the next step and compete for championships than the Pacers, but I still think it is unlikely that either team gives up enough draft capital to convince the Jazz to accept.

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It will be interesting to see how the next eight months play out for Utah. If the organization continues to head for a rebuild, fans will likely see the departure of Mitchell, Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Jordon Clarkson by next season’s trade deadline. Time will only tell, but Conley is likely nearing his final days as a member of the Utah Jazz.