While the New York Knicks and Utah Jazz couldn’t agree on a trade for All-Star Donovan Mitchell, New York’s front office should put their pride aside and inquire about some other players Utah has on the trade block, including Mike Conley.
The 2022 offseason for the Knicks has had two prominent storylines. The organization’s obsession with Jalen Brunson and successful pursuit in free agency, and their failed negotiations to bring star Donovan Mitchell back home to New York in a trade. The latter will be the more prominent story for most fans and NBA observers. At this point, it looks like the Knicks roster will be pretty similar to 2021, but with the addition of Brunson. However, the team can still make some tweaks, and Utah might still be a viable option to assist in that goal.
Utah is in a complete rebuild after sending Mitchell to the Cavaliers and fellow All-Star Rudy Gobert to the Timberwolves in June. But their offseason moving and grooving is reportedly far from done. Veterans Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Jordan Clarkson are all up for grabs. Bogdanovic is already drawing interest from the Lakers and Suns since he is a value add who is off the books after this season. Clarkson is sure to have some suitors, but Conley is not drawing much interest despite being an All-Star for the first time in 2020-2021. That’s why the Knicks should swoop in to snag him up.
Mike Conley is a good fit for New York Knicks in ’22-’23
Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau and the team’s front office are fans of veteran point guards. Especially with a mostly youth-driven squad. They added 33-year-old Derrick Rose two seasons ago and signed Kemba Walker last summer. Unfortunately, both have been disappointing. Rose was fantastic in ’20-’21 but was his usual self in missing most of last season due to injuries. Walker was a poor fit for Thibodeau’s scheme and was sent home by the team well before the season ended.
While they will have Brunson at point guard in ’22-’23, Rose cannot be trusted as the backup all season, and third-year man Immanuel Quickley is more a tweener guard than a prototypical floor general. The team also has a bit of a log jam at swingman with Quickley, RJ Barrett, Evan Fournier, Cam Reddish, and Quentin Grimes in need of playing time. It might be in the best interest of the Knicks to clear up that logjam and add a strong veteran point guard in one fell swoop.
Like Walker, Evan Fournier — another summer 2021 addition — isn’t a good fit for Thibodeau’s scheme because of his defensive deficiencies. The team really needs his minutes to go to 2021 first-round pick Quentin Grimes — a player the coaching staff is high on — or Reddish. Another former first-round pick they acquired from the Hawks last season. Both need to play to see if they have a future in New York and/or to build up their trade value.
Bogdanovic is likely to be moved, and Fournier would be a good replacement for him on the Jazz depth chart. Contractually, the Jazz would save $4 million by swapping Conley for Fournier this season. In 2023-2024, they could very well save as much as $6 million. Conley is guaranteed to make $14 million if the team cuts him but would get $24 million if he remains on the roster after the 2023 NBA draft (via Spotrac). Fournier makes just over $18 million the next two seasons and has a player option in 2024-2025.
Conley would surely bring important leadership to a locker room that needs it, as well as a bit more guard depth. Plus, he would make Rose expendable. The former Bulls star is a solid trade chip now or at the deadline with his contract for next season being a team option.
- Mike Conley stats (2021): 13.7 PPG, 5.3 APG, 3.0 RPG, 1.3 SPG
The Knicks could also get involved in the pursuit of Bogdanovic and also look to move Fournier to get his money off the books. However, a deal would likely require the team to give up one of their plethora of upcoming first-round picks. That wouldn’t be a bad idea to get more cap flexibility after this season.