We've been doing this for 17 years now at DB.com so we are obliged to note: We're not "selling'' dreams (or pipedreams) here; we're researching them, detailing them and explaining them.
There is a reason we've termed Dallas' big-fish free-agency pursuits "Pipedreams.'' Isn't the word self-explanatory?
There is a reason we call the chase for a big fish a "One-Percent Chance'' ... for the Mavs and for most everyone else The system is set up for Kevin Durant to stay in OKC, for Dirk Nowitzki to stay in Dallas, for Hassan Whiteside to stay in Miami and, maybe as much as any of them, for Mike Conley to stay with the Memphis Grizzlies.
CONLEY REASONS TO STAY (OR GO)
First, our Monday morning scoop: Dallas has secured a July 1 meeting with the standout player, sources tell DB.com. Pair this news with the information that Dallas has also secured a July 1 meeting with Whiteside and, well, ... we've got "Double Pipedream'' meetings, at least.
Conley is the best available point guard ... and it's the Grizzlies who helped him get there. He was drafted in 2007, has guided them -- by virtue of his talents and his grounded personality -- to the playoffs for the last six seasons, and is very close with his Memphis teammates, including Marc Gasol.
Memphis has done a remarkably good job in keeping its Grit-And-Grind guys together and under contract. Conley and Gasol and Tony Allen and Zach Randolph is a sound group, and Memphis has starting its push by releasing an "Orchestrator'' video ...
But Conley would be orchestrating an aging group. Memphis, unless it makes a splashy move of its own, is not rising in the West. It can be argued that Conley's best chance to win a title is elsewhere.
Conley is not Chris Paul. He's the next notch down. ... but again, the "next notch'' is the best there is on the market and max contracts are the cost of doing business here. In Conley's case, in Dallas, max means four years and $114 mil, starting at $26 mil. Scary because he's 28? Not at all. Scary because he's had some foot injuries over the years? Somewhat.
Scary to Memphis, who might need to max him at five years and $154 mil to keep him? Probably.
A max for Conley is unusual, too, in this sense: Usually, a first-rate scorer is the kind of guy who gets this kind of money. The 6-1, 175-pound Conley is a 15-points/6-assists guy who plays defense and is a floor leader. He's glue. He's the point guard version of "Grit Grind.'' (The Mavs might argue that Conley's already-sound 37-percent shooting from 3-point range will increase in Dallas' unselfish system, but other teams can argue the same. Oh, and Dallas has seen him score; he's a 30-point guy every time he opposes the Mavs.)
None of this is a bad thing; some of it makes you wish you could get him for less than $114 mil. But you cannot.
THE MAVS' FIT - AND PITCH
"Loyalty'' is an impossible pitch point with most any of these guys. As Dallas attempts to pull off the "Double Pipedream'' (full details here) that includes Miami center Hassan Whiteside, you review Whiteside's own comments ...
"I really don't think it's about loyalty. It's about the best situation for myself.''
And you realize that this is the business of basketball.
You see this with the potential divorce between Dallas and Chandler Parsons, and you certainly have the fact slap you in the face when you see DB.com writing about the "thin ice'' that exists even with The Loyalist Dirk Nowitzki's wait-and-see status.
How can you pitch "loyalty'' to Conley when you are attempting to persuade him to be "disloyal'' to Memphis?
So let's not use the word "loyalty.'' Let's try "bonding.'' And "supportive.'' And "togetherness.'' And "Shared Sacrifice.''
No, Dallas' pitch point to Mike Conley won't be "Shared Sacrifice'' in the form of less money; it'll be about "Shared Sacrifice'' in terms of the way the team plays on the court and focuses off the court and follows the lead of coach Rick Carlisle.
Carlisle IS the pitch.
The Grizzlies offer Conley many of the same things Dallas does ... "bonding'' and "continuity,'' too. (Oh, and the most money. Never, ever forget that.) But they do not offer Rick Carlisle.
Remember at the beginning of last season when we wrote that the Mavs' biggest free-agent signing was actually Carlisle himself? Now must come the payoff. Do you take basketball seriously? Are you a professional? Do you want to be recruited while drunk in a nightclub by a drunk peer ... or do you want to be recruited on a basketball court by a sober Rick Carlisle?
For some free agents, maybe the choice is the former. (Though we don't know how Parsons can recruit anyone to "Shared Sacrifice'' Dallas when so far he cannot even recruit himself here.) For Conley? Our read -- and the Mavs' read, too -- is that "sober pitchman'' might work, and that Carlisle talking basketball (along with owner Mark Cuban talking finance, of course) is central to what the point guard wants to hear.
We don't believe the Mavs will create a superhero cartoon for Conley, ala Dwight Howard from a few years ago. That was a silly approach fit for a silly man. We also don't believe that Conley will fall for what the detractors say about Carlisle, that he's "too hard on point guards.'' Look at the history of point guards who WORK WITH HIM and you see success. Most famously, of course, that includes Jason Kidd, who had an all-business approach on the court that is mirrored by Conley.
We are also told that while Conley in Memphis has been the "Orchestrator'' but that the orchestration consists largely of dumping the ball into the post, in Dallas he'd be allowed to "orchestrate'' for himself. The Mavs need a creator; Conley in Dallas would be freed to create ... and create for himself.
We also believe the Mavs will explain to Conley how much he's like Dirk in a very important way: Conley obviously grew up in the United States, and he played at Ohio State, and all of those things are very "mainstream.'' But our understanding is that he is still, in essence, represented in contract negotiations by his father, Mike Sr. There may still be ties with Bill Duffy, but Mike Sr. is the point man here. So -- like Dirk with Holger -- when the parties presumably meet on July 1, when free agency opens, there won't be the usual phalanx of representatives and handlers and advisors and hangers-on and entourage guys.
Now, the other top suitors -- and we see those as Memphis and (frighteningly) the Spurs -- will also avoid the phalanx and will also take no-nonsense approaches. But we're betting Conley skips other sitdowns with teams that either a) have no real history of winning big and b) misunderstand his desire for steak over sizzle.
Conley has Arkansas ties and maybe that makes Dallas more attractive than some destinations, too. For certain, the big-market Broadway/Hollywood thing isn't his thing. But none of that makes Dallas the "favorite'' ... not at all.
We're often asked questions about NBA free agency with the words "Who's the favorite?'' tossed around. There's really no such thing. There are suitors and then there is a winning suitor. The best thing about the Mavs' pitch to Mike Conley is that at this organization's core, it's a fit -- because at this organization's core is Rick Carlisle. Dallas doesn't have any advantages over the Spurs in most any department, and Dallas has too few advantages over the Grizzlies. But Dallas has Carlisle.
And on July 1, when the Mavs meet with Mike Conley, THE pitch IS Rick Carlisle.