by Kevin Lipe
According to Marc Stein of ESPN, Mike Conley has agreed to return to the Grizzlies:
Memphis and Mike Conley have agreed in principle on a five-year, $153 million deal, league sources say. Finer points "nearing conclusion."— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 1, 2016
If those numbers hold true, it would make Conley's contract the highest in NBA history, a true reflection of the heights to which the NBA's salary cap has risen. Conley's five-year deal would be worth somewhere around $30mm more than the 5-year deal signed last summer by Marc Gasol.
It's not exactly a surprise that Conley is returning. Trades by Indiana and New York took the Pacers and Knicks out of the running to sign him, and once Dallas (1) missed on signing Hassan Whiteside and (2) lost Chandler Parsons (a noted friend of Conley's) to the Grizzlies thanks to recruitment by David Fizdale, JB Bickerstaff, Justin Timberlake, and maybe Conley himself in some way, they didn't seem like a likely landing place either. It was always a question of whether the Grizzlies would offer Conley a full five-year max, and even that never really seemed to be that much of a question.
To be sure, the Grizzlies still have major health concerns moving forward for Conley, Parsons, and Marc Gasol. But by re-signing Conley they've proven they're willing to spend to build a contender, and paid back Conley for years of service on a contract that made him one of the best values in the league. (You know, the one that Matt Moore called "franchise suicide" at the time.) (Sorry, Matt, I had to.)
Conley probably won't actually sign anything until after the Grizzlies have completed their free agent pursuits. The Grizzlies should still have somewhere in the vicinity of $8mm to $10mm in cap room assuming they've renounced their hold on Matt Barnes and/or waived Vince Carter via the stretch provision. My assumption is that they'd like to keep Carter around if possible, so Barnes is likely the one moving out of the way to make it possible for the Grizzlies to retain Conley and add Parsons. Either way, the Griz still need some kind of a shooting guard who can defend, as Tony Allen is currently the only guy on the roster who is a credible starter at the 2 spot. They should be able to take a gamble on a young guy with that money, or perhaps trade one of their burgeoning stockpile of young bigs for a wing player. Time will tell.
With Conley back in the fold and Parsons officially joining the team, the Grizzlies have radically changed the face of the franchise in the course of a few hours. In a summer when we knew everyone would be spending money, the Griz have taken a gamble on a future core that could take them very far.