The Memphis Grizzlies are poised to select Ja Morant with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. The Murray State guard is reportedly meeting with Grizzlies representatives in advance of the Draft.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 9, 2019
With Morant set to become the point guard of the future in Memphis, the Grizzlies are motivated to deal away Mike Conley. The Chicago Bulls represent the most logical landing spot for Conley, a 12-year NBA veteran who turns 32 in October.
Acquiring Conley, who earns $32.5 million next season before a $34.5 million early termination option in 2020-21 that he almost certainly won’t opt out from, will not be cheap. The Grizzlies are likely to demand that Chicago fork over the No. 7 overall pick, something Bulls vice president of basketball operations John Paxson is open to doing.
#Bulls sending out message to NBA they'd be happy to trade No. 7 for a veteran.
While draft is considered weak, that'd mark a half-commitment to rebuild. Because 2 years from now, your core is likely LaVine, Markkanen, WCJ, Hutch and 2 picks in teens if "relevancy" goes right.
— Cody Westerlund (@CodyWesterlund) May 15, 2019
In order to match up salaries, the Bulls will need to part ways with high-priced swingman Otto Porter Jr. Porter Jr. has proven to be a solid 3-and-D wing. However, he is grossly overpaid and set to make $27.2 million next season and $28.4 million the following year.
A potential trade (which works in ESPN’s trade machine) could feature the Bulls sending Porter Jr. and Kris Dunn, who can handle the backup point guard duties for Memphis, and the No. 7 overall pick to the Grizzlies in exchange for Conley.
Trading for Conley would signal an attempt to speed up the Bulls’ rebuild. Conley could expedite the growth of Chicago’s trio of potential franchise cornerstones, which includes center Wendell Carter Jr., sharpshooting big man Lauri Markkanen, and shooting guard Zach LaVine.
Conley is no longer in his prime, but remains a top-tier NBA point guard. He ranked sixth in the league among point guards in Offensive Real Plus-Minus. Conley posted averages of 21.1 points, 6.4 assists, and 3.4 rebounds in 70 games played this season. He shot 43.8% from the field and 36.4% from deep.
The aggressive Conley reached the foul line nearly six times per contest. The Bulls ranked 26th in free throws attempted per game and are in desperate need of a player who can attack the basket like Conley, who shot 84.5% from the charity stripe last year.
In addition to his offensive prowess, Conley can give the Bulls a much-needed boost on defense. They ranked 20th in defensive scoring, surrendering 113.4 points per game. Conley, a member of the 2013 All-Defensive Second Team, has always been a strong defender.
Factoring in Conley’s veteran intangibles, it’s easy to see the benefits for Chicago to pull the trigger on the deal. While the Bulls won’t be a contender just by acquiring Conley, they could be a playoff team in 2019-20 if the younger players continue to develop. That would represent a major improvement from this past season’s 22-win squad.