Do Not Even Think of Backing Grizzlies Until Mike Conley Returns

Matthew Jordan

Thursday, December 14, 2017 3:16 PM UTC

Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017 3:16 PM UTC

The worst team in the NBA over the past few weeks has been the Memphis Grizzlies – and they likely will continue to be as such until point guard Mike Conley returns.

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Go take a look at the NBA standings. At the bottom of the Eastern Conference are teams like the Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks. They were supposed to be there as both clubs are in full tank/rebuild mode. Check out the West. You have the Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns and Sacramento Kings at the bottom – the Mavs, Suns and Kings belong there. But the Grizzlies?

Memphis has two All-Star caliber players in point guard Mike Conley and center Marc Gasol, yet the Grizzlies have been the worst team in the league since Nov. 11, both overall and from an NBA betting perspective. Why? Because Conley is injured.

Conley, the NBA’s seventh highest-paid player this season at a cool $28.53 million – behind Steph Curry, LeBron James, Paul Millsap, Gordon Hayward and Blake Griffin and ahead of James Harden and Kevin Durant – last played on Nov. 13 with an Achilles tendon injury that has essentially bothered him all season. It clearly was affecting his game as Conley was averaging 17.1 points on 38.1 percent shooting along with 4.1 assists and 2.3 rebounds. The shooting percentage is a career-low. By comparison, Conley last year averaged 20.5 points (45.9 percent shooting), 6.3 assists and 3.5 rebounds.

Even an 80 percent Conley is much better running the team than anyone else the Grizzlies have, and he’s not likely to return until perhaps after Christmas. The Grizz have been using Tyreke Evans and retread Mario Chalmers at the point. Evans is playing really well, but putting him in the starting five gives the Grizzlies perhaps the worst bench in the NBA.

Without Conley, Gasol’s numbers are down as opponents don’t respect a pick-and-roll of Evans & Gasol. The Spaniard attempts 3.5 3-pointers per 36 minutes without Conley, down from 6 when they share the floor. The Grizzlies are down to 26th in points per possession and sinking fast. Only the Thunder have a worse ATS record overall on the NBA odds.

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they scored points & we're down by 9 with 1:10 left.

Here's a pup

— Memphis Grizzlies (@memgrizz) December 14, 2017

As of this writing, since Conley joined the Grizzlies as the No. 4 overall pick in 2007‐08 they are 375‐313 with him in the lineup and 52‐92 when he is not. Conley’s injury and the slide that followed already have cost Coach David Fizdale his job, even though he’s very highly respected around the league and probably lands another head coaching gig next offseason. Assistant J.B. Bickerstaff will be the interim head coach the rest of this season.

Memphis has had seven consecutive winning seasons and seven consecutive postseason appearances. Both are the third‐longest active streaks by an NBA team. Those streaks are going to end.

During the summer of 2016, Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace, with his team stuck in purgatory off a 42-40 season, decided to re-sign Conley on what was at the time the richest contract in basketball history. He also gave injury-prone free agent Chandler Parsons a four-year deal worth $94.8 million.

Parsons’ knees are so bad he can’t really play more than 20 minutes per night and no back-to-backs. Memphis is now set pay more than $83 million to Conley, Gasol and Parsons during the 2019-20 season – nearly 75 percent of the team’s cap space. Thus, you hear some rumors that either Conley or Gasol could be dealt; Parsons has no value. If the team came to him with a trade, Gasol says he would accept it. Wallace hasn’t been able to put quality young supporting players in place around Gasol and Conley yet remains somewhat delusional.

“We think our window is still very much open with Mike and Marc," Wallace said recently. "I think we'll be heard from the rest of this year, and in years to come."

Window for what? The Grizz have reached the West Finals just once in this seven-year run and lost in the first round four times.

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