This offseason, the Detroit Pistons lose their first point guard off the bench. Next year, they will lose their starting guard. Unless they plan to bring one or both players back, they have an evident need at point guard. One name that has been batted around is the Memphis Grizzlies’, Mike Conley.
Mike Conley has two years remaining in his five-year, $152 million max contract. He stands to make $32.5 million and $34.5 million in the last two years of his existing contract. He will be 33 in 2021, after which he will be unlikely to make that same amount. Still, if the Detroit Pistons were to add him this offseason, they would be responsible for those 67 million dollars. This is money they do not have.
As mentioned, the Detroit Pistons current point guard situation is likely subject to change. The starting point guard, Reggie Jackson, has one full season remaining on his contract. He started every game this season, including all four playoff games. It was his first time playing all 82 games, which is especially encouraging as he missed significant time the previous two seasons due to injury.
The Pistons have him locked up for one more year, so a starting point guard is less pressing. Ish Smith was the first point guard off the bench. Only Langston Galloway and Luke Kennard played more minutes among non-starters. His contract is up this year, so finding a backup point guard is timelier.
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First, to play the devil’s advocate, let us look at the positives of adding Mike Conley. He has been an outstanding player for 11 seasons, all with the Grizzlies. Conley would be a defensive upgrade over Jackson. A good scorer and a better passer, he also gets to the free throw line more often than most of the current Pistons. He has been relatively healthy, despite missing most of the 2017-18 season due to a leg injury. Importantly, he would bring much-needed playoff experience, as his team made it as far as the conference finals in 2013.
On the other hand, Conley is not a young player. At 31, he is older than both Jackson and Smith, and he has more than 200 games over either of them. He is a more skilled player, sure, but is it worth bringing in an older player to handle so many minutes? If not, he is overqualified to come off the bench.
It is true, Conley is better than Jackson or Smith in most measurable categories. When comparing seasons at the same age, however, it is also true Jackson is closer in development to Conley, meaning Jackson may still have room to improve. For example, three of the last four years, Jackson has gotten better with three-point shooting, in line with coach Dwane Casey’s ideals. This is not to say Jackson will have the same career trajectory as Conley, of course, but it is not worth it to throw away his development right now.
The final argument against is also the most obvious: the price tag. Mike Conley signed a lucrative maximum contract in 2016. The Pistons are cash-strapped as it is. They cannot look to add another $30+ million to the next two years.
For this to work, the Pistons would have to trade Jackson and at least one other player, unfortunately, someone like Kennard. This would not be beneficial–really for either team. When Conley is an unrestricted free agent in 2021, by all means, the Pistons can make a play for him. Until then, though, it hardly seems possible.
In the next two years, the Pistons have to do something about a bench point guard and a starting one. Mike Conley is the best player on a subpar Memphis team. He would be a welcomed addition to any team, but at his current price, the Detroit Pistons would be better served looking elsewhere.