Image (1) mike_conley-thumb-250x375-22041.jpg for post 6292

The Mike Conley contract may not be quite as horrible as we thought


Let’s get this out there up front — the Mike Conley contract is still a bad one.

But it might not be as horrible as we first thought last night. Ronald Tillery, writing at a Commercial Appeal blog, had the contract breakdown for Conley’s deal.

1) The contract kicks in for the 2011-12 season, starting at roughly $6.5 million. With the maximum 10.5-percent raises allowed, the increases will look something like $7.18 (year 2), $7.9 (year 3), $8.76 (year 4) and $9.68 (year 5). There is no doubt (even with a new CBA) that Conley would have received an offer starting at least $6 million.

2) The only way Conley can exceed $40 million (i.e. the $45 million that national media was given by Conley’s agent)  is for him to produce what was described to me as “elite level PG statistics” AND the Griz must be winning 50-plus regular-season games AND having success in the playoffs. That means the bonus package is tied to individual and team greatness.

3) Another win/win is that there is deferred money in the deal. That’ll help the Grizzlies’ cash flow when their payroll is enormous. Zach Randolph came to Memphis with deferred money, which made it a little easier to absorb his contract.

The underlying issue of whether this should have been done in the first place remains. I’ll politely disagree with Tillery — the only way Conley gets a $6 million a year offer is if he continues his statistics from the first three games of this season through an entire season. If he reverts to the form of the last three seasons, he’s likely more around $5 million at best. Then there is the question of five years for a guy that has yet to play a quality stretch of basketball deserving that length of deal.

Bottom line, Conley was the perfect guy to make a restricted free agent — let the market set his value, and the Grizzlies could just match. The only reason to sign a guy to an early extension is if he is too valuable to lose (Kevin Durant) or you can lock him up under market value (Rajon Rondo last year). This deal meets neither criterion.

But it’s not quite as bad as we thought.

51Q: Does Ty Lawson vault the Rockets into the top tier of championship contenders?

DENVER, CO - MARCH 07:  James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets controls the ball against Ty Lawson #3 of the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on March 7, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockets defeated the Nuggets 114-100. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

I see five clear upper-echelon championship contenders –  Warriors, Spurs, Clippers, Thunder and Cavaliers.

Do the Rockets belong in that group, or do they fill the next tier by themselves?

Ty Lawson – acquired for pennies on the dollar – could put Houston over the top.

But, really, this premise might not be fair to the Rockets. They earned the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference last season and reached the conference finals last season. James Harden finished second in MVP voting. Dwight Howard looked like a star during the playoffs. The supporting cast – Trevor Ariza, Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, Patrick Beverley, Corey Brewer and even Jason Terry – played better than anyone expected. Young players like Clint Capela, K.J. McDaniels, Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell could make a leap at any moment.

There’s a case to be made we should have taken Houston more seriously even before trading for Lawson.

I didn’t, though, and I don’t think many others did either.

I suspect one of the biggest reasons is the Rockets’ balance. Houston – 12th in points scored per possession, sixth in points allowed per possession – was one of only two teams to win more than 51 games last season without ranking top five in either category. Of the seven teams with so many victories, the Hawks – sixth, seventh – were the only other. Atlanta was a darling team, winning 60 games after going 38-44 the season prior. The Rockets’ modest win increase, from 54 to 56, drew less attention.

But balance shouldn’t be punished. Houston’s surprisingly strong defense should be celebrated. Lawson might push its middling offense over the top.

There are reasons to question that, though.

The biggest is Lawson’s sobriety. If he’s not focused and engaged, this all goes out the window. His comments about going to rehab only because it was court-ordered raise doubts, though they hardly foretell anything.

Let’s say Lawson’s off-court problems are behind him. How big of an upgrade is he? The Rockets already had a pretty good point guard who fit well with Harden in Beverley. Lawson is a clear offensive upgrade, but in the biggest moments, the ball will still run through Harden. At that point, would you rather have Beverley or Lawson on the floor? Beverley is a far superior defender, and his off-ball offensive game isn’t far from Lawson’s. Beverley is is a fine spot-up shooter, and Lawson’s strengths involve having the ball and creating. Lawson’s biggest boost could come when Harden sits, but that was fewer than 12 minutes per game last season.

Sure, a secondary ball-handler could ease pressure on Harden throughout a long regular season. Lawson and Harden can take turns running the attack.

But we’re talking about title contention, and in those high-leverage situations, it’s Harden’s show. How much does Lawson matter then?

The Rockets have a chance to win a championship. As good a chance as the NBA’s five best teams? I’m not so sure.

UNLV following Kentucky’s lead with combine for NBA scouts

Goodluck Okonoboh, Patrick McCaw
Leave a comment

Kentucky held a two-day combine last season for NBA scouts.

Now, LSU and UNLV are following suit.

Rob Dauster of NBC Sports:

The Runnin’ Rebels will hold their event on October 23rd and 24th at the Mendenhall Center, UNLV’s practice facility, sources told The expectation is that all 30 NBA teams will be in attendance.

LSU has potential No. 1 pick Ben Simmons and another first-round prospect in Tim Quarterman.

UNLV features lottery prospect Stephen Zimmerman.

This won’t replace scouts attending games and watching practices, but the fact that all 30 teams plan to attend shows how seriously the pro league takes these. No college team wanted John Calipari to have that competitive advantage in recruiting, so the smart ones are leveling the field with their own combines. Soon, more college teams will follow.

As the calendar gets packed, NBA teams might have to pick and choose which they attend. At that point, we might get little clues about which prospects they’re scouting hardest.