Article Length: about 1,700 words.
To summarize part 1, I picked Ray Allen. On with the next selections.
Mike Conley 2016-2017
Notable Accolades: Playoffs: 7th BPM; 8th OBPM
Regular Season/ Playoff Stats
Regular Season/ Playoff Advanced Stats
Okay okay, let’s calm down. To me, this was a no-brainer pick even though Conley has never been an all-star, never been on an All-NBA, and the only accolade he’s ever won was All-Defense 2nd Team (and garnering a 5th place MVP vote in 2013-14). I know that calling Conley underrated has become a platitude, but dammit, it’s true! You can count on one hand the number of players who are tougher than Conley, and the best display of this is when he broke his face during the 2015 playoffs, had the multiple breaks surgically repaired, and missed ONLY ONE GAME! Please read the article that I just linked for a gory account. Just in case you don’t, here are a couple of snippets:
“That night, I was throwing up,” Conley said. “And every time I threw up—because when you do it, you can’t really control this—I’d have to open my mouth. It would just kill me because I couldn’t really open my mouth. Then, all of a sudden, blood would come out of my nose and I was like: I think I’m dying. It was crazy.”
“After I got the CAT scan, they told me I did have a blowout fracture,” Conley said. “I had three fractures at that point: one under my eye, one on the side of my eyebrow, and then there was one that was a displaced fracture almost where my jaw is.” Doctors also told Conley that he had very nearly broken his jaw and likely had a broken nose.
-Rob Mahoney, 2015
Also, that game for which he returned was game 2 against the eventual champion Warriors. Conley led the Grizzlies to a victory after shooting 8/12 from the field….
So what? Plenty of players are tough, and if that’s my only criteria, then why not sign Metta World Peace (Ron Artest at the time) who had the courage to consider fighting all of Detroit? Jonathan Abrams of (RIP) Grantland outlines how Conley developed into the intellectual, gritty leader that he is today. Furthermore, the dude has never received a technical foul. I like that intangible combination of quiet but tough leadership. He and Ray will ground the calm personality of our team.
Conley is also a rare point guard who is dominant on both ends of the floor. He specifically specialized in defense earlier in his career, and he showed that in the 2012-13 season when The Grizzlies played their worst defense when he was off the floor (even worse than when Gasol would sit).
After years of toiling in the Western playoffs, Coach Fizdale stepped in and provided Conley with new offensive confidence, helping Conley reach new heights as an offensive player. According to NBAWOWY, The Grizzlies played significantly better when Conley was on the court versus when he shared the court with Gasol or when Gasol was on the court without Conley:
Grizzlies: 2016-17 Regular Season
|Points/100 Poss||Points Allowed/100 Poss||Net Rating|
|Conley (no Gasol)||113.7||105.6||8.1|
|Gasol (no Conley)||106.5||105.7||0.8|
|Conley + Gasol||112.1||109.7||2.4|
|No Conley or Gasol||100.1||110||-9.9|
For comparison, an 8.1 Net Rating would’ve ranked second-best in the league behind the Warriors’ staggering 12.1 and above the Spurs’ 7.9.
To me, Conley’s appeal lies in his ability to both run an offense and play off-the-ball. Players like John Wall and Rajon Rondo are excellent “Dime Droppers,” but without the ball, their best skill is rendered useless. Conley can step away to provide some necessary spacing and allow for the offense to move more fluidly. Just like how I talked about Curry’s ability as a “Cog,” remember that Conley was second in the league in secondary assists (behind Curry).
Stepping away from these advanced metrics for a moment, the game that solidified Conley’s place on this team occurred this year against the 61-win Spurs and their ridiculous two-way superstar Kawhi (against whom the Grizzlies won two games). Conley’s game 4 performance was spectacular as he went toe-to-toe with Leonard before leading the Grizzlies to a two-point victory:
On a theoretical level, Conley’s skillset breakdown looks as follows:
Mike Conley 2017 – Playmaking (Elite– 8); Scoring (Elite– 7); Defense (Elite– 7); Rebounding (Average– 4)
We now have one Elite “Floor Spacer” and one Transcendent “Floor Spacer” along with two offensive talents who are able to put aside their egos for the betterment of the offense. What we’re lacking at this point is “Transcendent” defensive players, so let’s move in that direction for the next couple of players.
Draymond Green 2015-16
Notable Accolades: Regular Season – All-Defense 1st Team, 7th in MVP voting, All-Star, 8th in total rebounds, 7th in total assists, 6th in DWS, 10th in WS, 9th in BPM, 4th in DBPM, and 9th in VORP.
Playoffs – 1st in total minutes, 1st in total rebounds, 1st in defensive rebounds, 3rd in assists, 3rd in steals, 1st in blocks, 5th in OWS, 1st in DWS, 3rd in WS, 7th in BPM, 5th in DBPM, and 3rd in VORP.
Regular season/ Playoff Stats
Look, I know that usually my posts are filled with some statistical jargon that alienates some of the NBA fanbase. I know that sometimes my actual writing is lost within a series of hyperlinks, graphs, and acronyms that take the soul out of writing. Sometimes though, it’s completely necessary to whip out some numbers that are just mind-boggling.
For example, during the 2015-16 season, the same season that Curry went absolutely nuclear with possibly the greatest offensive season we’ve ever seen, the Warriors captured the most wins in regular season history before losing to the Cavaliers in a 7-game Finals series. By playing around with NBAWOWY’s On/Off numbers, we can see which lineups were must effective during a specific timeframe. The following are the Warriors Offensive Rating (Points/100 Possessions) and Defensive Rating (Points Allowed/100 Possessions) depending on Curry’s and Green’s on-court presence.
Warriors: 2015-16 Regular Season
|Points/100 Poss||Points Allowed/100 Poss||Net Rating|
|Green (no Curry)||110.4||102.1||8.3|
|Curry (no Green)||112.9||110.6||2.3|
|Green + Curry||120.2||100.7||19.5|
|No Green or Curry||102.1||112.8||-10.7|
Is this officially the perfect statistic for comparing teammates? No statistic is perfect, but boy does it tell an interesting story. Not only did the Warriors’ offense thrive with Green leading without Curry, their defense was absolutely stifling. Even more interesting though is how well these two meshed to garner the Warriors a 19.5 net rating. Even even more more interesting is their numbers during the Finals:
Warriors: 2015-16 Finals
|Points Allowed/100 Poss||Net Rating|
|Green (no Curry)||117||94.7||22.3|
|Curry (no Green)||108||111.5||-3.5|
|Green + Curry||110.1||111.2||-1.1|
|No Green or Curry||97.4||119.7||-22.3|
Before we leap to any conclusions, this is over the course of seven games which yields a significantly smaller sample size rendering the numbers more volatile; however, it tells me that even after winning a championship, Green brought his absolute A-game to defend their honor (not that Curry didn’t. The Cavs just matched up very well with him last year).
I chose to start with those numbers because, well, to be honest, Draymond’s game isn’t particularly sexy. He doesn’t score in bunches or in flashy ways. He doesn’t catch fire from three, and he doesn’t (often) chase players down on the break. He doesn’t whip no-look passes, and he doesn’t posterize players. Draymond is simply one of (if not the) greatest offensive/defensive engine in history.
By engine, I mean a couple of things. First, his defensive versatility allows him to literally guard all five positions (check out my earlier post where I claim that five Draymonds would be the best defensive lineup possible) and defend the rim at an elite level. With the NBA’s defenses becoming all the more complicated with threes and picks flying everyone, it’s more important than ever to have a player that can step out and contest a shooter (without being beat off the dribble).
Secondly, his passing ability is tremendous for a forward. Mike Brady of the pro-Warrior “Golden State of Mind” blog where he claims that Draymond is the actual MVP of the Warriors states the following:
Last season Draymond Green and LeBron James were the only two front court players in the top 10 for Points created by assists (per game)The only other front court players inside the top thirty were Nicolas Batum (20th), Blake Griffin (29th) and Kevin Durant (30th).
This season Draymond Green is currently ranked 8th in that same category and is also 8th in secondary assists (the pass to the player who makes the assist), while also sitting sixth in assist to turnover ratio.
-Mike Brady, 2016
Granted, his anger and propensity to kick genitalia possibly cost the Warriors the Finals series, but with this uniquely modern skillset, I can’t afford to not have Draymond on our team. He brings so much to the table, and looking back to Morris’ defense of Rodman, Green might just be in the top-5 “third best” players in history.
Before closing, let’s look at his theoretical skillset:
Draymond is the ultimate “Cog” and “Chameleon.”
As a closing thought, Draymond had an all-time great Finals game-7 performance that was overshadowed by the King. He scored 32 points on 11-15 shooting (6-8 from 3), grabbed 15 rebounds, and dished 9 assists. I respect any two-way role-player with that kind of grit in the biggest game of the season.