Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley signed the largest contract in NBA history last summer when he re-signed in Memphis on a five-year, $152 million deal. For a player that had never so much as made an All-Star team, many were stunned by the sticker price on Conley’s deal — which will soon be eclipsed once free agency rolls around this year — but Conley managed to handle his new deal and post a career year in 2016-17.
Conley posted career-bests in points per game (20.5), rebounds per game (3.5), field goal percentage (46 percent), three-point percentage (40.8 percent), effective field goal percentage (54.5 percent), offensive rating (121), and assist percentage (34.5 percent). Conley was even better in the Grizzlies’ first round playoff series against the Spurs, averaging 24.7 points and 7.0 assists per game on a 56.8 percent effective field goal percentage.
Teams have long been told to be cautious of what a player does in their “contract year” — the season before a player hits free agency. There’s plenty of motivation to play your best when millions are on the line, but few players manage to continue improving after inking a massive deal. For some, Conley will never live up to his deal and he’s made peace with that, but after last year you’d be hard pressed to find anyone in Memphis upset with the Grizzlies shelling out the big bucks to keep Conley around.
Conley spoke with DIME Magazine ahead of this year’s free agency about his whirlwind year since inking his massive deal, tell us what the final days of June and first days of July are like as a top free agent, Marc Gasol, his work with Be The Match bone marrow donation organization, what Memphis needs to do this summer, his approach to defending the MVP finalists, and give us his MVP pick.