The greater NBA community will have a field day with the very idea, but the Minnesota Timberwolves should make another trade with the Utah Jazz.
Luckily, the Wolves already flushed their draft capital in July so all they can really part with is players; but a 25-25 start and constant questions about starting lineups fitting together begs the exploration of trade deadline activity. With Jordan McLaughlin — the popular fan choice for a real floor general on this team — missing 32 games so far this season and D’Angelo Russell embodying the word “enigma” all year, the missing piece seems to be at point guard.
Enter Mike Conley.
The 35-year-old has posted his second-lowest field goal percentage this season for the Jazz this year but is averaging 7.5 assists and shooting 44% on catch-and-shoot 3s, per NBA Stats. You can see that he is still setting up teammates well, too, especially scoring-minded wing players like Jordan Clarkson and Lauri Markkanen and rim-running bigs like Walker Kessler:
There are plenty of parallels to make here with the Wolves roster. Anthony Edwards and Jaden McDaniels fly off the page as immediate beneficiaries (the big man connection will be referenced later). Conley’s strong points offensively this season are setting the table for more dynamic teammates and spacing off the ball for three-pointers. The point guard qualities he brings are arguably the most important holes on this Minnesota roster at the moment — he could defer to Edwards in key moments and become a shooter (something Russell has actually bought into lately and had success with) or become a more aware pick-and-roll partner with Rudy Gobert.
I’ve always been a fan of Conley’s professionalism, demeanor and veteran presence. He knows what playing in a mid-sized market is like and has embraced that vibe his whole career. He’s aging, but he was just an All-Star two years ago, and still seems to have a bit more juice than someone like Kyle Lowry, with the same level of leadership ability. The Timberwolves have been searching for someone like that who can still make on-court impact.
His familiarity with Gobert is extremely enticing. The pairing had a +9.59 net rating in 1600 minutes on the floor together last season according to PBP Stats.
Conley’s contract is more flexible than it seems, too. He’s got a partially-guaranteed year in place for 2023-24, with only $14.3 million of his $24.4 million set in stone. If the Wolves were able to flip Russell for him, that’s a cheaper way of extending Russell for a season and getting what could very well be a better leadership and lead guard fit, especially with Gobert.
Minnesota has been linked to Conley for a while, along with a couple of other teams. The Jazz are realizing their future in the West pecking order probably won’t include a mid-30s point guard, so understandably they’re interested in shopping him.
Russell is expiring and could go where he likes after the season if Utah doesn’t want him. The Wolves get a cheaper and smarter option at lead guard who will come in and be a great professional alongside Taurean Prince, Kyle Anderson and Austin Rivers. Those are the kinds of veterans that lead the way while also being solid players.
The instability of the 2022-23 Timberwolves needs to be fixed sooner than later if this team is to start seriously contending. Bringing in an all-league chemistry guy at point guard who can still shoot the rock and pass it accurately makes more sense than any other deal for Minnesota.
Get Mike Conley in that City Edition uniform!