The classic "big fish''? It's not Mike Conley, the fine Memphis point guard who missed the final 26 games of the season and all of the playoffs with Achilles tendinitis, who averaged 15.3 points and 6.1 assists this past season, who in his nine NBA seasons has never been selected for an All-Star Game.
The best point guard in free agency this summer who might fill a need, who might be "get-able,'' who might cause the Mavs to have to think about their shopping habits with some flexibility?
As DallasBasketball.com first wrote on May 26, there are those inside of Mavs HQ who believe Conley is that guy. ... and now comes an update regarding some concern in Memphis.
Sources have indicated to me that Dallas will, at the very opening of the July 1 free-agent shopping window, make sure a) opting-out Dirk Nowitzki is made to feel valued as he comfortably re-enters the fold, b) opting-out Chandler Parsons is re-secured in order to help recruiting new teammates and c) Kevin Durant is in receipt of what one team insider terms a "courtesy call.''
Durant is, of course, the classic "big fish,'' the sort of player who follows in the steps of LeBron James as the best-of-the-best who've been pursued by the Mavs ... to no avail. At different times over the years, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, Deron Williams and DeAndre Jordan have also been poised atop that very high Dallas wish-list shelf.
It should not be taken as an insult to Conley that the Mavs have some hesitation on him as that level. He isn't a "franchise-changer''; maybe the Summer of 2016 is shy of those. But Conley can be a building block as part of a two-summer-long plan to get this thing turned back into "true-contention'' direction.
And that's why, I'm told, he'll be on the Mavs' short list of primary targets.
He's the best point guard available in this free-agent class, huge strides of where Deron Williams was a year ago when he signed his one-year deal to come to Dallas and huge strides from even where D-Will is now after a successful reclamation-project season. Deron made about $5 mil in his year with the Mavs and will be trying to use that as a springboard to doubling that salary elsewhere now, I bet.
Put Deron somewhere in the middle of a list that includes Jeremy Lin (who spurned Dallas a year ago), Brandon Jennings (who missed 11 months with a torn Achilles tendon sustained in January 2015), Ty Lawson (burdened by a serious and seemingly chronic DUI problem) and Rajon Rondo (The Hemorrhoid). There is another way to go -- a trade for Atlanta's Jeff Teague, anyone? -- but in terms of free agent point guards ...
Mike Conley suddenly looks pretty good, eh?
“I’m a team guy,'' he recently said, as quoted in the Memphis paper. "I don’t care one way or another if I’m on TV more. If I’m an All-Star, great. If my team wins the championship, that’s best.”
Mike Conley suddenly sounds, pretty good, too, eh?
Which teams would compete with Dallas for Conley's services? Oh, all the same ones who have money (pretty much all of them) and who don't love the aforementioned list of PGs (pretty much most of them) and yeah, that can be everyone from the lowly Nets to the lofty Spurs -- and they all have the same money to offer Conley, who has averaged 13.6 points and 5.6 assists over the course of his career but carries with him a reputation as a defensive-minded, team-first leader.
Ideally, in Dallas, Conley comes for less than his max $25.9 mil to start, leaving room for more pieces beyond the retention of Dirk and Chandler. (It'd be nice to find a center somewhere in this mix, but we've named names here and told truths -- about Dwight Howard here and about Tyson Chandler here -- and they are not pretty truths.) Let me reiterate this: In a season when there might not be realistically available a single stellar talent, the Mavs would love to find a way to use their available funds ($26 to $32 mil or so) to acquire a pair of second-tier standouts ... and it would be lovely if Conley would fit as one of the two.
But I don't think Conley will be less-than-max, as much as Dallas would crave such a thing. It will take the "overpaying'' of Conley to obtain his services, and then to team him in the backcourt with another high-priced/high-character guy in last summer's "get,'' Wesley Matthews.
So ... flexibility. The reach-out to Durant. ... along with maybe a request to Dirk and Parsons to be flexible themselves ... the desire to get a true "big fish'' ... the idea of a very a serious exploration, as DB.com explains, about center Hassan Whiteside ... seconded by a desire to sign two next-tier fish ... and in the end, the reality that it might take big-fish bait to lure just one next-tier fish.
That can be Mike Conley.
The inside track, as always, belongs to Memphis, even though Conley himself makes skeptical noise about the Grizzlies being able to build a true contender in a way that makes them highly attractive.
"It's no secret," Conley said. "Everybody's wondering if we can bring together enough guys in the offseason. They have the right formula. They have enough money and an opportunity to find the right guy. But will we be able to attract this person or that person? We need to be committed to doing the things, whatever it may be and however hard the decision may be, to do the right things in order to get us where we need to go.''
No one can absolutely assume the Grizzlies are committed to giving him his five years and approximately $150 mil. (That does seem like a lot, when we actually do the math and scribble down the total.) But he's right about the direction of that franchise, which features Zach Randolph (35), Marc Gasol (31 with a broken foot), Vince Carter (39) and Tony Allen (34). And now there is this, from ESPN New York, where the Conley angle is a Conley-to-Knicks angle:
Here's a bit of potentially good news for those Knicks fans interested in free agent Mike Conley: some members of the Grizzlies front office are growing a bit concerned about the possibility of Conley leaving in free agency, per a source with knowledge of the situation. Memphis ... plans on using a video featuring Grizzlies part-owner Justin Timberlake as part of its recruiting pitch, per a source ... Both Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek and GM Steve Mills has mentioned point guard as a position of emphasis for New York this offseason.
The Knicks foundation is far more flawed than Memphis'. (Worth noting: The Spurs foundation is without flaw.) But reviewing the Grizzlies' roster, maybe that's a flawed foundation, a less-than-attractive one. But is it more flawed than the foundation of a Dallas team that can only give Conley a four-year deal (starting at the same $25.9 mil and totaling about $110 mil)? Dallas is an imperfect destination for Conley, and he's an imperfect "get'' for the Mavs.
In that sense, it's a match made in ... well, about as heavenly as the Mavs can possibly expect.