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.