Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies
If you happened to turn off your NBA coverage in February you have every reason to be incredulous that Mike Conley is on the cusp of becoming an All-Star point guard. If you (especially you Grizzlies fans) stuck with Conley since then, you’ve seen a Memphis offense go from something as out-of-sorts as a teenager learning a stick shift and turn into a, gasp, thing of fast-paced beauty. By cutting out Rudy Gay, the middleman was eliminated from Memphis’ attack and allowed elite posts Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol to get more touches and Conley to work with a larger canvas without the crutch of always feeding Gay. Memphis still will not win in an NBA 4x100 relay, but Conley’s improvement has been breathtakingly rapid. After averaging 13.0 points and 5.7 assists per game before the trade he enjoyed a steady rise after, but has taken a leap forward to 17.6 points, 7.6 assists and nearly double the rebounds as before – all while playing essentially the same minutes per game. It’s an out-of-nowhere leap that has him set to arrive at an All-Star level from the jump next fall, a place that now feels perfectly justified after seeming like a conspiracy theory-level long shot just three months ago.
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