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SB Nation Blogger Mock Draft: Suns get Mike Conley to help make team relevant again!

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In the SB Nation Annual blogger mock, the Phoenix Suns acquired Memphis point guard Mike Conley in a 6-piece deal

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Every year, the SB Nation NBA blogs get together to hold a MOCK DRAFT, with each blog representing their team in the drill. I represented the Suns in this effort and had a great time as always.

Note: this draft took place BEFORE Anthony Davis was traded to the Lakers in the real world.

Each SB Nation NBA blog is given an hour to make their pick, or trade the pick as long as all parties agree. That’s what makes this the most fun! We can’t just make up trades in our heads — we have to convince the die-hardest fans of the other blogs to make the trade too! Not every team feels the same way about your team’s players as you do, so this is the ultimate smell test.

The rules on draft picks are:

  • Must be draft eligible and still on the board, just like the real world

The rules on trades are:

  • Must include at least one 2019 first round pick (second round picks and future picks can be traded, but only if there’s a 2019 first rounder in the deal too)
  • Must work under salary cap rules, either as of the draft or as of July 1 (new league year)
  • Must be approved by all sides in the deal, so there’s fairness involved

The draft started as expected — the Pelicans took Zion Williamson and sifted through their offers for Anthony Davis. Then the Grizzlies took Ja Morant, and sifted through offers for Mike Conley.

Then the fireworks went off.

In our mock draft, the Pelicans traded Anthony Davis to the Knicks in a huge three-team trade that included the No. 3 and No. 5 picks.

Knicks Receive: Anthony Davis

Cavs Receive: 2019 No. 3 overall pick

Pelicans Receive: 2019 No. 5 overall pick, 2019 No. 26 overall pick, 2021 Dallas 1st (unprotected), 2023 Dallas 1st (1-10 protected), Kevin Knox, Dennis Smith Jr., Allonzo Trier, Lance Thomas

The Knicks made this trade with the hope that they could pair AD with Kevin Durant, so when Durant went down with a year-long Achilles tear the Knicks blogger commented that he might not have made the trade if he knew KD was out for the whole year they’d be trying to convince AD to sign an extension.

With the No. 3 pick, the Cavaliers blog took R.J. Barrett, while the Pelicans blog took Jarrett Culver at No. 5. In between, the Lakers blog made no trades in our mock, and took their presumed favorite Darius Garland.

And in real life this week, now that the Pelicans have the No. 4 pick from the Lakers, I can totally see the Pelicans doing that same thing and taking Jarrett Culver at 4. There’s no way they take another point guard in Darius Garland or Coby White if they keep that pick AND Lonzo Ball and Jrue Holiday.

Suns on the clock

Best remaining for the Suns at this point are De’Andre Hunter, Coby White, Cam Reddish and Brandon Clarke.

Time to roll the dice and shoot for actual RELEVANCE in the Western Conference.

I traded the Suns best trade assets to get the Grizzlies Mike Conley.

Suns receive: Mike Conley, Dillon Brooks and C.J. Miles

Grizzlies receive: T.J. Warren, Josh Jackson, Tyler Johnson and the No. 6 overall pick

This trade assumes Tyler Johnson picks up his 2019-20 player option for $19+ million before draft day, because why wouldn’t he? Yet this is not official as of Monday, three days before the draft. The Suns cannot trade Tyler until he officially picks up that player option.

For the Suns, we get two years of an actual starting caliber point guard Mike Conley who played at an All-Star level last season. Also, we finally get a look at the two-way prospect Dillon Brooks, while taking on C.J. Miles for salary matching purposes. Both Brooks and Miles are expiring contracts that could be used in trades later in the year.

I see Conley as an upgrade on Coby White, Brooks as a potential upgrade on Josh Jackson and Miles and Tyler Johnson just salary figures.

In terms of free agent money, the trade is a clean wash on salary obligations for 2019-20 and the Suns will have the same free agency money (previously reported as $11 million*).

*That $11 million was overstated. I forgot to make sure the roster has 12 bodies on it, and anything short of 12 gets a league-mandated minimum salary charge to get there. The Suns will have 9 contracts on the books after this trade if you include Richaun Holmes but none of the unrestricted guys.

  • PG: Mike Conley, Elie Okobo, De’Anthony Melton
  • SG: Devin Booker, Dillon Brooks, C.J. Miles
  • SF: Kelly Oubre Jr., Mikal Bridges
  • PF:
  • C: Deandre Ayton

So the league will reduce the Suns free agency money down to about $8 million as of July 1 to get the “roster” up to 12 filled spots. The Suns could choose to keep non-guaranteed contracts of Ray Spalding, Jimmer Fredette and cap hold of Richaun Holmes to fill out the 12 spots, but that would take them down to under $7 million.

After this mock trade, you can see that the Suns depth chart now leans heavily to the back court (which it would have without the trade too), and so the Suns will have to spend their free agent money and applicable cap exceptions on the front line.

“Room” teams like the Suns also get a separate “room” exception of just under $5 million that can be used after the team reaches the cap for contracts no longer than 2 years with a 5% second-year increase (i.e. up to $10 million over 2 years).

Then there are the minimum salary exceptions. Any team can fill out their roster with minimum salaried players, like the Suns did with Jamal Crawford and a handful of others last year.

Add in the No. 32 pick and trade assets in Okobo and Melton (and Brooks and Miles after 30 days), and there are a few ways the Suns can fill out the front court this summer.

But overall, after this deal the Suns have Conley, Booker, Holmes, Bridges and Ayton as their core for the next 1-2 years.

Here’s the Memphis take on getting the Suns assets for Conley, including the No. 6 overall pick that they used on De’Andre Hunter to add to Ja Morant and last year’s No. 4 pick Jaren Jackson Jr.

Trading away Mike Conley hurts. But man oh man, did we get a haul for him. TJ Warren instantly becomes a starter for Memphis at the 4, moving Jaren Jackson Jr. to the 5. Josh Jackson can be a reserve forward and develop. Tyler Johnson can play some backup point, or he can sit next to Chandler Parsons and enjoy the pay days (which will end next summer, same as Chandler. The Grizzlies are about to have a LOT of cap space.)

That also includes the #6 pick in this draft, and we were OK with that number because we assumed one of Jarrett Culver or De’Andre Hunter was going to fall to us. The biggest knock on Hunter is his ceiling is low. You know what isn’t low? His basketball IQ. Or his shooting percentages. Or his understanding of team defense. In a way, he’s the perfect fit alongside Jaren Jackson Jr. and Ja Morant - a starter that can be anything you need him to be...except a star. And that’s OK - Memphis hopefully already has two young ones. What they need is help, and Hunter is almost assuredly that.

Summary

I do believe adding Mike Conley vaults the Suns into relevance in the West, and I can see them pushing for a playoff spot.

They now have an All-Star quality back court in Conley and Booker, with go-go-gadget forwards Oubre and Bridges and the super-promising Deandre Ayton in the middle.

Conley pulled an awful Grizzlies team to 33 wins last year, even after Marc Gasol was traded to the Raptors and super-talented rookie Jaren Jackson Jr. was lost for the season to injury. He was barely short of being named to the All-Star team, a victim of such a deep core of guards in the West.

Conley set a career high in points (21.1) as the primary scorer on the Grizz, while also dishing 6.4 assists and playing his customary strong defense. When Conley was on the court last year for his 2,342 minutes, the Grizzlies had a positive net rating, while they were -6.5 per 100 possessions (roughly, per game) when he sat (1,637 minutes).

At 32 years old this coming season (turns 32 in October), he’s getting up there in years but if last year is any indication he’s certainly not over the hill yet. And his contract, while large, only goes two seasons.

Dillon Brooks is a smart young two-way player who was promising as a rookie in 2017-18 under David Fizdale but lost last season to multiple injuries. Brooks can play defense, rebounds well for a guard and can make threes. Brooks will be a restricted free agent next summer.

C.J. Miles is an expiring contract, but can be useful in the interim along the wing with defensive skills and a lifetime 36% three point shooting stroke.