With the NBA trade deadline near, the Memphis Grizzlies are reportedly listening to trade offers for Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
The trade deadline is February 7, and this time of the season is generally where either a blockbuster trade is made or title contenders are looking for players who can provide depth.
The Philadelphia 76ers already made one of the biggest trades of the season when they acquired Jimmy Butler last November, but they could still use additional pieces for a potential title run.
Specifically, the team is a bit thin in the back court, so if Conley is on the trading block, with his gifts, he could fit nicely in Philadelphia.
The only problem? Philly trading for Conley is improbable. He’s due $67 million in salary through July 2021 and is on the books for about $30 million this season. In order to pull off a trade for Conley, the Sixers would have to provide a large package to be able to take on his contract.
All things considered, though, general manager Elton Brand should consider this trade if he can make it happen.
Mike Conley Could Help Ben Simmons in the Backcourt
Ben Simmons would still be the primary ball handler if Conley was traded to the Sixers, but if the Sixers acquired Conley and started him alongside Simmons, he would give Simmons more room to create on the offensive end.
Conley can facilitate and run an offense, but he can also shoot well, as he’s shot 35.4 percent from the 3-point line this season and 37.5 percent for his career.
JJ Redick is the best shooter on the team, and he does create a good amount of space for the starters. His ability to run off screens well and make shots off dribble handoffs are key for the team’s offense. Redick, however, isn’t there to be a secondary ball handler, so having Conley in the starting lineup wouldn’t take away from his abilities.
If Conley was in the lineup, the Sixers could even experiment with Simmons at the small forward spot and have him play more of a point forward role, with Redick still at the shooting guard.
That probably isn’t too ideal right now—the Sixers should be trying to solidify who they are. But bringing on Conley, who is also a solid defender, certainly wouldn’t be a bad thing for the team.
Conley Has Playoff Experience
Conley has helped lead the Grizzlies to the playoffs for seven of the past eight seasons. Memphis went to the Western Conference Finals in 2013, where it lost the series 4-0 to the San Antonio Spurs.
Conley, who is 31 now, was 25 at the time. He averaged 15.3 points per game on 38.3 percent shooting in that series. His career playoff averages are 16.5 points per game and 6.7 assists on 41.4 percent shooting.
If Conley were traded to Philly, the experience he has would be important. He would be another veteran voice to have in the locker room alongside Jimmy Butler, who also has playoff experience.
The Sixers’ core group has made it to the playoffs once, and that was last season where they lost 4-1 in the second round against the Boston Celtics. With the Sixers still being a young club—their average age being 25 years old—bringing on Conley could help them push farther into the playoffs.
So why shouldn’t the Sixers pursue a trade for Conley?
The Sixers would have to give up a lot
After this season, Conley will have two years left on his contract, where he will be due $67 million through July 2021. Although he has an early termination option following the penultimate year of his current contract, it’s difficult to imagine him walking away from the $34 million he’d be due to earn.
According to the ESPN report, Memphis would be looking for a deal where they would acquire young players, draft picks and salary-cap relief. In other words, the Sixers would almost certainly have to give up some key bench players in T.J. McConnell, Jonah Bolden and/or Landry Shamet for the deal to make any sense for them.
Because the Sixers are over the salary cap, they’d also have to send out about $25 million in salaries for the trade to work under the league’s collective bargaining agreement. Simple arithmetic dictates that at least Jimmy Butler, Wilson Chandler or JJ Redick be included in any such deal.
Doing so would further diminish the Sixers’ depth, which might be counterintuitive.
The Sixers likely wouldn’t have a solid backup point guard
McConnell has played quality minutes as the Sixers’ backup point guard this season, but he could very well be traded if Conley was brought in.
The Sixers already don’t have a lot of depth. If Conley came to the team and McConnell was traded, that would likely leave Furkan Korkmaz or Landry Shamet as the backup point guard (if they stayed).
Korkmaz is a good passer, but he’s not the type of player who can consistently thrive with the ball in his hands; he’s a good off-ball player and shooter.
Shamet’s role is supposed to be nearly identical to Redick’s, as he comes off the bench and brings shooting.
In the end, depending on what a deal looked like, adding Conley could solve one of the Sixers’ problems, but would perhaps create new ones.
It’s an interesting thought, and one that Elton Brand might have to at least consider.
Conley would be a great addition, but with the impracticality of acquiring him, along with the Sixers likely losing more depth, the move would have its flaws, even if it were to happen.