It's no secret whatsoever that Sean Marks' most important objective this off-season is to find starting caliber point guard and the Nets will have more than enough money to offer point guards big bucks on the free agent market.
Except there's one problem: most, if not all, are quite underwhelming.
But Mike Conley's name continues to surface on pundits lists of Nets targets. Despite missing the final 26 games of the season and all of the playoffs with a bout of Achilles tendinitis, he remains a top target for teams looking for a starter.
The nine-year veteran averaged 15.3 points and 6.1 assists this past season before the injury. He's averaged 13.6 points and 5.6 assists over the course of his career. Along with a solid offensive game, Conley possesses a defensive game that's better than most point guards around the league. However a 28-year old with ankle issues demanding a max contract doesn't necessarily scream resolution.
It screams Deron Williams.
As Bobby Marks writes Sunday...
Conley, who will be 29 in October, will get his $25 million per year, either from Memphis or another team.
Even with a rising cap, it will be hard to justify paying Conley in years 3-5 of the deal, when he will average $30 million per season.
Still, it would be an upgrade from whatever the Nets have right now and quite frankly... that isn't much.
The latest analysis comes from Brian Lewis who mentions the possibility of Conley bolting out of Memphis after they ousted head Dave Joerger on Saturday.
NBA sources said the only free-agent point guard who would be a difference-maker is Mike Conley. He led the NBA in assist-to-turnover ratio and will be the top priority for several teams, including the Knicks and his own Grizzlies. Memphis can offer Conley more than $100 million, and GM Chris Wallace guaranteed they would re-sign him.
But Conley's odds of bolting Memphis could be increased by the Saturday firing of Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger and reports of Wallace's potential departure.
Ohm Youngmisuk also writes on the situation:
One thing Knicks and Nets will likely keep eye on is how Joerger firing impacts Mike Conley's free agency decision https://t.co/utKK2bSDjh— Ohm Youngmisuk (@NotoriousOHM) May 7, 2016
In the midst of a playoff series, General manager Chris Wallace told ESPN's Chris Vernon, "We are going to re-sign Mike Conley."
But days later, Conley sounded less than committed in returning to Memphis.
"It's no secret," Conley said. "Everybody's wondering if we can bring together enough guys in the offseason. They have the right formula. They have enough money and an opportunity to find the right guy. But will we be able to attract this person or that person?"
"We need to be committed to doing the things, whatever it may be and however hard the decision may be, to do the right things in order to get us where we need to go," Conley told reporters.
So, while Wallace guaranteed the team would re-sign the league's best point guard in assist-to-turnover ratio --and only the Grizz can offer him more than $100 million, Conley wants proof his team will contend.
The Grizzlies aren't in the greatest situation. In addition to Joerger's exit, they're dealing with a declining 35-year old in Zach Randolph and a 31-year-old Marc Gasol, who's recovering from a broken foot. Tony Allen, who's been the heart and soul of the gritty Grizzlies style, is 34. Vince Carter, 39 years old, and Matt Barnes, 36 years old, are both free agents.
Long story short, Mike Conley will be looking to get paid this summer. The Grizzlies are likely to move in a new direction and the Nets and Knicks will be two of many chasing after him.
Along with Conley, Lewis mentions other free agent point guards..
- Jeremy Lin, who has close ties with Kenny Atkinson is set to become a free agent after an impressive year with Charlotte. However, he told the Charlotte Observer how he'd like to return next season.
- Rajon Rondo, who might not fit Marks' script due to the trouble and drama he's gotten himself tied into the past few seasons.
- Brandon Jennings, who missed 11 months with a torn Achilles tendon suffered in January 2015.
- Ty Lawson, who, just, no. Charged with domestic violence and four accounts of DUI. Traded from Denver and bought out by Houston this past season.
- Seth Curry or Jordan Clarkson, both restricted free agents who will likely be overpaid for potential rather than being immediate difference makers.
- Milos Teodosic, a European star on CSKA Moscow is an intriguing prospect but lacks an NBA out.
Sean Marks has his hands full. This past season showed how important having even a capable point guard, let alone a star really is, and how desperate the Nets really are to fill the spot. Trades are always possible, but the Nets don't have much to give up.
That being said, overpaying for a guy like Conley might sound like it makes a lot of sense right now, but is it the smart decision for the future?