Why the Boston Celtics should trade for Mike Conley

Boston Celtics (Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images)
Boston Celtics (Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images) /

When the Boston Celtics traded Marcus Smart to the Memphis Grizzlies, the move shook most of Beantown to its core. The rabid Boston fanbase will miss the unmatched energy, hustle, and leadership that helped Smart become the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 2022.

While Smart made a name for himself with his tenacious defense, the Celtics may miss his evolution as a passer more than anything. Fortunately, Boston has the pieces to trade for a player that can match Smart’s playmaking.

That player is Mike Conley.

Ever since Memphis drafted him in 2007, Conley has established himself as one of the most consistent point guards in the league. The left-handed floor general has played over 1,000 regular season games in his career, shooting an impressive 38.2% from three along the way.

Coming off of a career-best 6.7 assists per game, Conley recently helped the Timberwolves reach the playoffs and reignited his chemistry with former Jazz teammate Rudy Gobert. The 16-year veteran can run a pick-and-roll offense with the best of them, and he showed no signs of slowing down last season.

The Boston Celtics must reach out to Timberwolves about Mike Conley’s availability

The Boston Celtics shouldn’t hesitate to call Minnesota about a potential trade for Conley. In the wake of Smart’s departure, Boston would welcome such a team-oriented point guard with open arms. The 35-year-old southpaw is a three-time Sportsmanship Award winner and former Teammate of the Year.

Conley’s longtime role as a leader of the grit-and-grind Grizzlies established his admirable nature as a competitor. The former All-Defensive guard helped instill a defensive culture in Memphis that Boston can mirror or even surpass – as they have in previous years. Out of Minnesota’s seven most-used lineups from last season, only three boasted defensive ratings of 101.0 or lower. Two of these lineups included Conley.

Despite Conley’s obvious impact on the Timberwolves, Minnesota could be fully buying into a youth movement that syncs up with Anthony Edwards’ timeline. This offseason, the team has already resigned 24-year-old Nickeil Alexander-Walker and picked up another young guard in Shake Milton. With Karl Anthony-Towns already in trade rumors, it wouldn’t come as a total surprise to see Minnesota move on from older players like Conley.

If he joined the Boston Celtics, Money Mike would do wonders for the Beantown offense with his pick-and-roll ability. With Utah last season, Conley ranked eighth leaguewide in frequency as a pick-and-roll ball handler. His pick-and-roll volume slightly dropped in Minnesota, but he still boosted Gobert’s points, shot attempts, and free throw attempts when playing next to him.

Incredibly enough, Conley created an insane 1.25 points per pick-and-roll possession with Minnesota – good for best in the league among players with 40 or more total pick-and-roll possessions. Robert Williams III could especially benefit from playing alongside Conley. For all of last season, Smart only dished out eight total assists to Williams.

Pairing Conley with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown would also make for an exciting brand of basketball. The Memphis legend’s leadership – on and off the court – could only help the Jays as they continue to grow and mature.

The Boston Celtics have a plethora of picks to trade

After dealing Grant Williams to the Mavericks via sign-and-trade, Brad Stevens added two second-round picks and a second-round pick swap to a steadily growing treasure trove of draft capital. While some Boston Celtics fans reacted poorly to the trade, it is important to understand the potential significance of Boston’s pick hoarding.

This summer, the Celtics have already accrued seven (!!) second-round picks along with an additional first-round pick. On top of that, they still own all of their future first-rounders.

Simply put Boston’s collection of draft compensation points to a looming trade. The Celtics can use their pile of picks to make a huge splash in the trade market, and one of those splashes could lead to Conley.

When it comes to players that would match Conley’s salary, Malcolm Brogdon sticks out like a sore thumb. The reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year struggled with a torn tendon in the back half of the postseason, causing his play and subsequent trade value to take a hit. Fortunately, Brogdon is expected to be back and healthy for the start of next season.

Realistically, Boston could muster up a one-for-one trade package centered around Brogdon and Conley. Due to Brogdon’s recent injury concerns, the Celtics would likely need to throw in some of their second-round picks as a sweetener.

If they wanted to think even bigger, the Celtics could dive deeper into their vault of players and picks to form a larger trade involving Conley. Such a deal might look like this:

Whether Stevens decides to use Boston’s picks in a summer trade or not, the Celtics have a long-term advantage over other contenders due to their plethora of draft assets and ownership of their first-rounders. The team’s pick stash gives them extra flexibility beyond this upcoming offseason. Boston can utilize these picks to move within future drafts and to make trades next season.

All in all, the Cs should seriously consider Conley as a trade target. For the last few years, Boston could have greatly benefitted from the presence of a true playmaker. Armed to the teeth with picks and players, the Celtics can finally add that playmaker.