The Grizzlies are on a torrid run, currently sitting 14th in the Western Conference with a 19-30 record. They started the season well but have won just three of their last 22 games.
Conley is the younger of the pair at 31-years-old. He has a guaranteed contract for next season, and a $34.5 million salary which will also be fully guaranteed if he plays 55 games in this season or 2019/20. The former Ohio State point guard has already played 48 games this season.
The respective contract situations and ages of Conley and Gasol makes this an understandable decision for Memphis, who are looking to build around 2018’s fourth overall pick, Jaren Jackson Jr.
Conley has played well this season, shooting well from the field and assisting 6.1 buckets per game. Memphis have been markedly better at both ends of the floor when Conley is in the game – their offensive rating is 6.6 higher with Conley on the court.
There will be plenty of interest in Conley before the 7th February trade deadline. Here are five teams that should be giving the Grizzlies a call…
Miami are stuck in a salary cap nightmare. They are not bad enough to be a lottery team and are nowhere near good enough to contend with Milwaukee, Toronto, Boston or Philadelphia in the playoffs.
The Heat need to make a big move if that situation is to change while they are locked in to several horrible contracts. Memphis will be reluctant to take Kelly Olynyk or Tyler Johnson in a deal, as they would probably have to for the salaries to work. Olynyk has three years left and Johnson has two.
Multiple first round picks would be necessary to have any chance of Memphis agreeing. The Grizzlies would likely ask for Justice Winslow, who has played well this year and Miami would not be keen to part with.
It’s no secret that the Pelicans need to make a big move to retain Anthony Davis. Adding Conley to the improving Jrue Holliday in the backcourt would be a huge step for New Orleans, though they may be unwilling to take such a risk when Davis could demand a trade in the summer.
New Orleans are currently 13th in the West, meaning their 2019 pick carries decent value as it could well end up in the lottery even if they acquire Conley.
Davis’ future is unlikely to be with the Pelicans as it stands. Trading for Conley, while retaining Nikola Mirotic, is perhaps their best path to convince Davis to stay.
Utah are unable to attract big free agents. Trades are perhaps their only way of acquiring a player like Conley. An uptake in form has pulled them to sixth in the West, making them definite buyers as we approach the deadline.
Sending Ricky Rubio’s expiring deal and Joe Ingles’ $13 million contract, which is front-loaded, would balance out the money. Memphis could also ask for Utah’s 2018 first-round pick Grayson Allen, and Utah have all of their upcoming first-round picks.
The Jazz are already one of the league’s strongest defensive units, boasting the third best rating in the NBA. Conley would make a terrifying defensive line-up with Donovan Mitchell, Jae Crowder, Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert.
Orlando have not made the playoffs since 2012. They have won over 30 games once in that period. Like Miami, they will not be challenging the big boys in the Eastern Conference, but they are desperate to just host playoff games again.
The Magic have a tonne of picks to trade. They potentially have two 2020 first-round picks, including the Thunder’s heavily-protected pick and a couple of second-rounders they could move for the 2019 draft. Memphis would likely ask for at least one of these picks in any Conley deal.
Jonathon Simmons, Terrence Ross and D.J. Augustin could be sent to the Grizzlies to balance the deal. Aaron Gordon’s front-loaded contract makes him a trade candidate in the near future, though Orlando may hold onto him for the rest of this year as they push for the playoffs.
The expiring Nikola Vucevic is an option for the Magic, but he is unlikely to have much appeal to Memphis as they rebuild.
Orlando are in desperate need of a point guard, having drafted Mohamed Bamba and Jonathan Isaac with high picks in the last two seasons. Conley is a great fit if Orlando are desperate to return to postseason basketball.
The Pistons started this season well, but have been poor of late, slipping to 21-27. It’s going to be touch-and-go for Detroit as they push for a playoff berth.
The big trade that brought Blake Griffin to Motor City shifted the team into win now. Like others in the Eastern Conference, Detroit need to find a way to get off some of their bad contracts if they are to compete while Griffin is at his peak.
Jon Leuer and Reggie Jackson are two of those deals. Both have two years left, which might put the Grizzlies off. Neither are performing to anywhere near their contract value, providing a combined 3.1 win shares so far this season.
Packaging Leuer and Jackson with a future first-round pick will probably not be enough to get Conley. Detroit will have to add other picks or perhaps Luke Kennard.
A point guard is a necessity for Detroit to make the Griffin trade worthwhile. They are probably the team most desperate for Conley.