The trade deadline is nearly upon us. As rumors continue to swirl, reports have surfaced that the Jazz and Grizzlies are exploring the possibility of a Mike Conley trade. In a vacuum the deal makes sense for both sides. The issue is in the details, and determining what is fair value. Presumably, this is what the two teams are trying to workout through dialogue.

Well we are here to simulate it. The rest of this article is going to be a back and forth discussion hammering out a Conley to Utah trade. The Grizzlies will be run by BBall-Index Memphis writer Jonathan Rosenberg, while the Jazz will be run by BBall-Index Utah writer Tavan Parker.

Before getting into the negotiations, each team will lay out what their objectives are in such a trade. This will provide a solid prism through which to view the final agreement.

Objectives: Memphis

  • Acquire draft picks
  • Acquire cost controlled young players
  • Acquire a name, or prospect of hope, to sell to the fan base for sending out a franchise hero
  • Reduce future salary commitments to depress costs and avoid luxury tax

The meat of what the Grizzlies should be trying to get back for Conley are young players under team control/cost control, and draft picks. Shipping out Conley (and perhaps Gasol) will see this team not be competitive for at least a few years. Getting multiple bites at the apple to build a nucleus around Jaren Jackson Jr. is the name of the game here.

While admittedly not the best ideology to bring to a trade strategy, given the market in which Memphis plays, the team will need some way to sell this trade to their fan base to justify trading away a guy whose jersey will one day hang from the rafters.

Acquiring, for example, Ricky Rubio would allow management to say “Hey, his passes are awesome! He’s really good, and we can still be competitive!”

Conley is owed $32.5 million next season and then has a $34.5 million player option for 2020-21. If Marc Gasol picks up his player option for 2019-2020, and they bring back both JaMychal Green and Garrett Temple, then Memphis will be closing in on the luxury tax threshold. For a team that is already bad and will be substantially worse without Conley, reducing long term financial commitments and staying as far away from the tax as possible are prudent maneuvers.

Objectives: Jazz

  • Complete the rebuild by finding that 3rd star-level player to play alongside Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell
  • Don’t sacrifice too much quality depth
  • Avoid ruining too much future financial flexibility
The Jazz have two franchise cornerstones in Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell. As good as these two are, it’s clear that their peak would likely be a 2nd round or maybe Western Conference Finals trip. That’s not enough for these competitors, or the Utah front office for that matter. They will be aggressively looking to find another high-end talent to help these two out.
Mike Conley is they type of player that could fill that role. He’s playing near pre-injury levels again and would fit like a glove in Utah’s system and culture. That contract though. He’s good, but he’s not quite 66 million dollars for the next 2 years good. He’s also a little older than we wish he was. At 31, he’s not the ideal candidate next to the 26 year old Gobert and 22 year old Mitchell.
With that in mind, we think there’s more reward than risk in trading for Conley. His contract would expire when Mitchell and Gobert are up for extensions, so if it doesn’t work out you have Conley’s money reserved for them and whoever else you now decide to place around them. We have to be careful though. We don’t want to shoot ourself in the foot by giving up too much quality depth or future assets. It’s not easy for small market teams to build a contender. Patience and cost-effective moves along with timely calculated risks is a difficult balance.
So to us it seems like the trade starts with either Rubio or Favors for Conley, and then figuring out who else is needed to match salaries and get assets back to you. I’m assuming you prefer Rubio.

Correct, we would rather build the package around Rubio as opposed to Favors. We still wish to be as competitive as possible this season. We’re hoping to get our draft pick obligation owed to Boston out of the way this year. Our starting point guard play plummets if we move Conley without getting a serviceable veteran in return.


Alright, Rubio can be the base. How do you view Dante Exum currently?


We were very high on him coming out, and still believe there is potential there. The defense he displayed against Harden in last year’s playoffs suggests he can fit into the Grit n’ Grind culture here. We’re not stuck on our 2014 evaluation of him, however. While the thought is upside remains, it would be foolish to completely ignore how his career has panned out to this point.


We agree with your assessment, and as a result that may limit the draft pick compensation we are willing to send back in your direct.

Derrick Favors is quietly having a really good season. He really sticks out according to the grading system at The-BBall-Index.

As you can see, he can provide high level finishing and post play, something that can help an offensively starved team such as yours. Furthermore, he can bring some great defense, which is backed up by his 14th ranked DRPM number among power forwards. Everyone knows how much you guys love defense!

With the second year of his contract being non-guaranteed, how do you feel about him?


We like Favors and really like that his $16 million salary for next season is fully non-guaranteed. It’s functionally a team option, leaving us with flexibility on how we want to move forward with the roster.

The issue is we already have a jog jam at the 4 and 5 positions, and we need to start prioritizing getting Jaren Jackson Jr. more minutes. Additionally, as stated earlier, without Conley the offense could disintegrate into something resembling a poor rec league squad. We need to have a point guard capable of running a functional NBA offense if for no other reason than thinking about what is best for Jackson’s development.


What if the Jazz took JaMychal Green back in return?


Green is available but we view him as an asset.

While he isn’t as stout an interior defender as Favors, we don’t think that matters too much to the team that has Rudy Gobert. Green also has better mobility to defend out on the perimeter.

The big contrast here between Green and Favors is the outside shooting. We think Green actually pairs much better with Gobert than Favors, given his ability to space the floor with his three-point range.

Green is also on an expiring contract which won’t lock Utah into more financial commitments.


That makes sense and is what we were expecting to hear. How does this look then?

Memphis Receives: Rubio, Favors, Exum, 2019 first round pick
Utah Receives: Conley, Green, and whichever minimum contract you care least about


Are there any protections on the first rounder?


No, no protections at all. We are willing to bet that with the addition of Conley and Green we will make a deep playoff run.


Well that is quite juicy. I think we’re really close here. Can you throw in the 2022 second rounder than San Antonio owes you?


We’d rather not include more draft capital with Exum involved. Alternatively, we’d maybe consider swapping Exum for a 2021 first as well.


Oh that’s interesting. What about an unprotected 2022 first instead of Exum?


With the contracts expiring in 2021, giving up a 2022 pick sounds terrifying. How about the 2021 pick is top 5 protected and we’ll toss in that extra 2022 second rounder or a second round pick swap with Cleveland in 2024?


Let’s do the 2021 top 5 protected first rounder and the San Antonio 2022 second rounder.


Alright deal.

Final Agreement

Utah Receives: Mike Conley, JaMychal Green

Memphis Receives: Ricky Rubio, Derrick Favors, Utah’s 2019 first rounder unprotected, Utah’s 2021 first rounder top 5 protected, San Antonio’s 2022 second rounder

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