After a phenomenal regular season, the Minnesota Timberwolves are rolling into the 2024 NBA Playoffs with a lot to prove. Their trio of All-Star talents have their resumes on the line. Karl-Anthony Towns has yet to showcase his talent consistently in postseason. Rudy Gobert has narratives to wipe away. Anthony Edwards' path to superstardom has a chance to ascend even higher. Based on his sixth man role, many would point to Naz Reid as a the key piece to elevate Minnesota this postseason. However, there is one X-factor with even more to prove for the Wolves this playoff run.

Sixteen-year veteran point guard Mike Conley has fit like a glove in Minnesota. His on-court play and off-court leadership have helped tie the Timberwolves together as a unified group. As a result, the team just couldn’t stop winning. Conley is no stranger to winning. In fact, winning follows him everywhere seemingly.

Conley has been at the point for high-quality teams setting franchise records. He was key piece of the “core-four” with the Memphis Grizzlies, including multiple deep playoff runs and a Western Conference Finals berth. As Memphis transitioned to the Ja Morant era, the Utah Jazz jumped at the opportunity to add Conley.

His fit next to Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert was seamless. In Utah, Conley once again played a pivotal role on a team flirting with 50 wins perennially. As the Jazz and Danny Ainge turned their focus to a rebuild, the Timberwolves were now the team calling upon Conley’s stability with full-knowledge that his fit next to Gobert would unlock their previous trade with Utah.

With a ton of playoff experience, Conley is the veteran Minnesota relies on to control the game, generate quality shots and still defend at a high level. With a potentially grueling series upcoming against the Phoenix Suns, Mike Conley will be the Timberwolves’ X-factor in round one and beyond.

Mike Conley’s combination of clutch shot-making and timely passing

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Mike Conley (10) warms up before the game against the Utah Jazz
Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

One of the biggest points of value Conley adds to the Wolves’ offense comes from his elite shooting touch. While not regarded as a sniper, his numbers speak volumes to his talent. On the year, the Wolves point guard shot a scorching 44.2% from deep on over five 3-point attempts per game. As Anthony Edwards has grown more and more into a lead guard, Conley’s ability to play off the rock is vitally important.

Going into round one with the Suns, the Timberwolves should look to rely on the veteran as much as possible. All season long, Phoenix has aggressively filled the gaps to prevent Edwards from finding success as a scorer on dribble-drives. While limiting Ant-Man sounds like a win for the Suns, it isn’t if Conley and others find themselves capitalizing on open catch-and-shoot opportunities.

What really makes Conley’s skillset so special though is his ability to run the show. When the going gets tough, Chris Finch puts the ball back in the hands of his point guard. Conley’s shot-making becomes even more dangerous. An elite shooter off the bounce, Conley’s two man game with Gobert is a sight to behold.

At times, the 6’1” guard dances behind Gobert’s huge screens until his defender gets caught in the wash. Then Conley seizes the opportunity with a quick-trigger side-step triple. If his defender chases over the top, the savvy guard works his into the paint and tosses up his signature off-hand floater. In the event Gobert’s man steps toward Conley, the veteran knows just where to put the ball so only the Stifle Tower can get it.

When clutch time approaches, Conley will be the one in position to take over the game. He’s done it all season long. With dagger catch-and-shoot threes, perfectly timed lobs and kick-outs, and a runner listed on every team’s scouting report, Finch and Minnesota knows to go to their guard who is all about winning.

Mike Conley knows its go-time

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards (5) and guard Mike Conley (10) celebrate against the Golden State Warriors
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

During media availability in the week prior to their round one matchup, Conley addressed his desire to win, and the goal is to do so right this second.

“My urgency is at an all-time high. I don’t think there’s anybody on either team that wants it more than me. I told the guys that, selfishly, ‘Do it for me, man. Help me out. Meet me at my level right now because I don’t got long.’… This is a heck of a team we have here and a heck of an opportunity that we don’t want to waste,” Conley shared.

Conley’s message is a valuable one for a young Timberwolves team. With most of the roster in their early-to-mid 20s, the veteran’s voice stands as a testament to the challenge of winning in the NBA.

Winning at the highest level is extremely difficult. It requires the entire roster to be focused on one goal. Everyone has to sacrifice a bit for the group to reach their desired destination. Not only is Conley the X-factor this playoffs on the court with his clutch play, but he has clearly been the X-factor all season long in the locker room as well.