Mike Conley Gave Us A Glimpse Of What He Can Do For the Wolves

Photo Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Leading up to last Thursday’s trade deadline, the Minnesota Timberwolves were in trade rumors surrounding D’Angelo Russell. Despite my desire to see the Wolves stand pat and hold onto their current roster, they dealt Russell to the Los Angeles Lakers in a three-team deal. A trade that landed Minnesota Mike Conley Jr., Nickeil Alexander-Walker, and three second-round picks from the Utah Jazz.

Immediately, I was very displeased with the trade due to several factors. First, I was more bullish on DLo than the average Wolves follower, so seeing him get traded naturally hurt. Secondly, dealing Russell, who’s 26 years old and entering his prime, in exchange for a 35-year-old veteran guard was something I’ve disagreed with for a while. However, my outlook has changed after a few nights of sleeping on it and seeing Conley’s first game with the Wolves. Trading for “Minnesota Mike” was a good decision.

Coming off an impressive 143-118 win over the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night, there was a sense of optimism heading into Friday’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies. While it would have been great to see Conley drop 15, 10, and 5 in his first game with the Wolves, that ask would seem to be a bit ambitious. While the stats don’t jump out, Conley showed us exactly what to expect as he and his team will continue to grow their chemistry together.

“I thought he was great, he was really good,” Chris Finch responded on Conley’s first game with the Wolves. “He was moving the ball, finding people. Now we’re gonna have to connect on the shots that he’s creating. Guys are going to have to make shots. But I thought he did a great job, really do.”

Conley finished with 9 points, 3 assists, 3 turnovers, and 2 steals on 3-for-7 from the floor and 1-for-4 from deep in Minnesota’s 128-107 loss in Memphis. Those numbers may not jump off the stat sheet. However, Conley gave the Wolves one thing all night long – level-headed consistency. That’s one of the few things they didn’t have with Russell commanding the offense.

There was no doubting DLo’s offensive talent; the dude could shoot the lights out on any given night. However, with Anthony Edwards growing into more of a leadership and primary ball-handling role, the Wolves no longer needed a flashy guard who could drop 25/5/3 on 40% from the floor. Rather, they needed someone to control the offensive pace and be a force on the defensive end.

Conley fits that role to a tee.

“I’m like a rock, man,” Conley said before his first game with the Wolves. “I don’t get phased too much at any moment. Large or small, I’ve kinda seen it all now. I’m truthfully a team guy, I try to get everybody involved, and I’d take an assist over a bucket any day. We got a lot of guys on this roster with talent who can score the ball and really need their opportunities, so I’m going to do my best to try and provide that. And be the guy on both ends for this team.”

Getting the ball to Ant, who was just named a first-time All-Star, is a no-brainer. However, the Wolves have struggled to find Rudy Gobert in spots where he can handle the pass all season.

When the Wolves traded for Gobert, most (including myself) were over the top excited to see the pick-and-roll between him and Russell. While DLo may have been leading the Wolves in total assists to Gobert this season, their chemistry just seemed off. Via Jon Krawcyznski with The Athletic, we now know a little bit more about the on and off-court issues between the two.

Gobert’s transition to the Wolves has been anything but seamless, and while his individual game has been lackluster, how was Rudy supposed to develop any confidence in himself and his team if the guy who was engaging in the most actions with him didn’t enjoy playing alongside him? With Russell out and Conley in, it looks like Gobert’s offensive game may finally come around.

“He’s a lob threat. He’s one of the best in the league,” said Conley. “That’s where I can kind of live in that paint and shoot floaters and make plays for him and make the game easier.”

We may not have seen a lob tossed to Gobert or Conley tearing up with his floater game against Memphis. However, the natural fit seems eminent – Conley looked like he’s been on the Wolves all season long and just returned from an injury.

His first game with the Wolves wasn’t a sexy one. However, Conley’s cool, calm, and collected play is exactly what this team needs. The vibes around Conley and the Wolves seem high right now, an oddity days after a massive trade deadline.

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Photo Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Conley’s basketball career can be easily segmented into distinct eras. There’s the one really freaking good year at Ohio State when he almost won a national […]

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