The Memphis Grizzlies dealt away franchise stalwart Mike Conley to the Utah Jazz on Wednesday, one day ahead of the 2019 NBA Draft.
Memphis’ reasoning for the deal is simple. It will select Murray State point guard Ja Morant No. 2 overall on Thursday.
From a Jazz perspective, they land an All-Star caliber point guard that still in the back end of his prime. They do so while giving up last year’s first-round pick Grayson Allen, this year’s first rounder (23rd overall), a future first-round pick and veterans Jae Crowder and Kyle Korver.
Here’s a look at the biggest winners and losers from this blockbuster trade.
Winner: Ja Morant
The idea of Morant heading into his rookie season as a backup never really made any sense. As we saw during Murray State’s NCAA Tournament run, he’s more than pro ready. If the Grizzlies want to expedite their rebuild, it always made sense to give Morant the starting nod immediately while teaming him up with last year’s No. 4 pick, the impressive Jaren Jackson Jr.
Morant will now have an opportunity to run the offense out of the gate. He averaged 24.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and 10.0 assists per game last season. Morant will now be a heavy Rookie of the Year favorite with Zion Williamson.
Loser: Jae Crowder
Whether he remains with the Grizzlies or is sold off to another team, the lack of appreciation surrounding this veteran is more than apparent. Crowder averaged nearly 12 points per game and played tremendous defense in his two seasons with the Jazz. He seemed to be a really good fit for the team.
If Crowder were to remain on the Grizzlies, he’d be playing for a franchise in the midst of a rebuild. That’s not necessarily an ideal scenario for a veteran entering his age-29 season.
Winner: Donovan Mitchell
Mitchell has been held back the past couple seasons by Ricky Rubio’s inability to shoot from the perimeter. The primary reason behind adding Conley was to open things up for Mitchell on offense. At least statistically, that should be the case.
Conley shot 36 percent from distance and nearly 50 percent from two-point range last season. He also dished out a solid 6.4 assists to go with less than two turnovers per outing. This is only going to help Mitchell after he shot just 43 percent from the field last season.
Loser: Grizzlies front office
Maybe former Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace should be solely placed in the loser category here. His inability to get anything of substance for Conley when it was apparent that the guard was on the block could impact Memphis big time moving forward. After all, Wallace was among the most overrated general managers in pro sports prior to being jettisoned from that position.
Memphis did not get a single proven core piece in the trade. No, Grayson Allen is most definitely not that. Sure, the two first-round picks help. But a player of Conley’s ilk should have netted Memphis more than it received in this deal.
Winner: Mike Conley
After seeing his Grizzlies in the playoffs seven of his first 10 NBA seasons, Conley knew that a long-term rebuild was the name of the game. While he won’t say it publicly, joining a contender at this stage of his career was a necessity.
Flush with the above-mentioned Mitchell as well as Rudy Gobert, these Jazz will be among the upper rung in the Western Conference next season. Conley couldn’t have asked for more as he plays out the latter stages of his prime.
Loser: Rest of Northwest Division
Utah was able to win a surprising 50 games with a limited Ricky Rubio manning the point last season. A former All-Defensive Team performer, Conley is a significant upgrade on both ends of the court.
Team him up with Mitchell, Gobert and the rest of Utah’s pieces, and this team is absolutely legit. Outside of maybe the Nuggets, this negatively impacts every team in the Northwest Division. It’s now safe to say that Utah has overtaken Oklahoma City and Portland in the division — making it more difficult for each team in what promises to be a stacked Western Conference.