Heading into the offseason, the conventional wisdom was Mike Conley would re-sign with the Jazz. First, he had finally found a fit with the team during the regular season, he just didn’t get the chance to show it during the playoffs due to a hamstring injury. Second, the Jazz couldn’t replace him if he left, so they would overpay to keep him.
But when free agency started, other teams at least showed some interest, Conley told Sam Amick of The Athletic in a fantastic Q&A.
“There were a couple of teams that were involved. It was Chicago, Dallas. … New York was early, and then they kind of were off and on. For me, it was simple. It was the easiest decision…
“Yeah, New Orleans [was involved]. So for me, it was an easy decision (based) on what we had built here and what I was able to be a part of last year and in the last few seasons. Just wanted to be a part of that journey with these guys. Trying to bring a championship to a place that, you know, it’s not easy to do. I think that seeing Milwaukee win was awesome. You know, just like from my standpoint of what I believe in, and what and what I’ve seen over my years, the vision that we had in Memphis, you know? To see the reaction of the fans and stuff. That’s what we want to bring to Utah, and give ourselves a chance to do.”
Conley re-signed with the Jazz for three years, $68 million (with the third season not fully guaranteed). It’s unlikely any of the other teams pursuing him would have come close to that number, so this wasn’t Conley just staying in Utah for altruistic reasons.
It’s interesting Conley references Milwaukee’s title because Utah is in a similar space this season. The Jazz have proven they are a dominant regular season team, which is why their fast 4-0 start may get them on top of NBA Power Rankings but is not really turning heads, same as the Bucks a season ago. In the playoffs the Bucks core players stayed healthy, Giannis Antetokounmpo made a leap, they showed more defensive versatility, a few things broke their way (as it has to for any champion) and they got to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy.
The Jazz need to stay healthy — Conley missed a lot of games and Donovan Mitchell was playing on basically one leg by the Clippers series — and need to show better perimeter defense so everything doesn’t fall on Rudy Gobert (or put another way, the Jazz have to prove they can handle a good five-out team). The Jazz are an ensemble where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, but can it continue to play like that in the postseason and win? It’s not a question they can answer before May (and maybe June).
But without Conley, the Jazz could not have answered those questions well. Fortunately for them, he saw the potential of the Jazz and thought it was an easy decision.