Mike Conley’s time in Memphis is possibly coming to an end. If it does, he'll go out as the team’s all-time leading scorer, which is a fitting accomplishment.
Although the Grizzlies fell short Wednesday night in a pseudo-road game against the Golden State Warriors in a FedExForum filled with faux-Warrior fans, Conley was able to regain the franchise’s all-time scoring record with a corner three-pointer in the first quarter.
Conley, who also leads the franchise in assists, steals, three-point field goals, and games played, joined LeBron James and Reggie Miller as the only players ever to lead in all those categories for their respective franchises.
Conley was a late-bloomer scoring-wise over his career, after struggles to be productive early. As a young player, he was often the butt of fan and media jokes, but Conley went from being the third to forth option on teams that had some combination of Rudy Gay, OJ Mayo, Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol to the team’s number-one option in recent years. His longevity, combined with his production, has now placed him among the franchise’s all-time greats.
But now, Conley has a cloud of uncertainty floating over his head, as he is constantly the subject of trade rumors — even as early as NBA Draft day — after not being moved at this year's trade deadline. There are those who believe the Grizzlies will, in fact, move Conley either around the draft or at some point before next season’s trade deadline, the thought being that another team looking to re-tool going into next season might be willing to give more for Conley than the offers that were presented to the Grizzlies this season.
The Lakers, Jazz, Pistons, Pacers, and Magic seem to be the most likely candidates, based on previous interest in Conley, as well as speculative looks into their roster make-up, needs, and draft placement. Conley’s recent scoring production has made him look like a much more desirable player. There are those who say that Conley might even be “auditioning” or showcasing his abilities to a league-wide audience because he might not be opposed to the possibility of leaving Memphis via trade.
There are two ways of looking at his situation. There's the obvious benefit of having Conley back next season, especially if the Grizzlies are not able to convey the draft pick they owe to Boston. A team that consists of Conley, Jackson, Anderson, Brooks, and some combination of the players acquired via trade this season could not only be good enough to convey the pick, but possibly be good enough that the pick lands high enough that it might not sting so much to lose it.
There is also the thinking that not only should Conley not have to be forced to be a part of a team that is clearly rebuilding, but that the Grizzlies shouldn't try to rebuild on the fly, and keep Conley in the process. This kind of clean break would force the team — and the fans — to embrace life after Grit 'n Grind, of which Conley is now the lone survivor.
Regardless of what the Grizzlies end up doing with Conley between now and the near future, it is great to see him cement his place in team history. His hard work, dedication, and loyalty to the franchise, his teammates, and the city has placed him where he belongs — on top.