The Chicago Bulls are in a similar position as last offseason – needing to upgrade their perimeter shooting, size/rebounding, and without a clear answer at point guard.
“If they could get Mike Conley in there, that would be a guy who could start or come off the bench and can play with Lonzo [Ball] if Lonzo gets healthy,” explained one rival general manager to Heavy Sports NBA insider Sean Deveney. “That would be the one guy they could target who would make a lot of sense and could fit with Zach [LaVine] and DeMar [DeRozan] and still be very useful if Lonzo plays.”
Conley, 35, is heading into the final year of a three-year, $68 million pact.
He averaged 11.9 points, 6.7 assists, and 2.7 rebounds during a regular season split between the Utah Jazz (10.7/7.7/2/5) and the Minnesota Timberwolves (14.0/5.0/3.1). The 16-year man averaged 12.0 points, 6.4 assists, and 2.6 boars in the playoffs for Minnesota.
His veteran leadership was certainly not lost on his new teammates including youngster Jaden McDaniels.
That affinity goes both ways as Conley spoke of looking forward to things “slowing down” again for him this summer during his exit interview. After being traded from the only NBA home he’s ever known in Memphis after 12 seasons, and spending three-plus years in Utah, he might not be too eager to jump to another city again.
Still, this is not the first time the Bulls have been linked to Conley.
The Bulls Linked Have Been to Mike Conley Before
The Bulls have been without Ball since last season due to a knee injury and, given that reality, there was buzz that they were sniffing around the former Memphis Grizzlies star ahead of this past year’s trade deadline.
Hyland wound up getting traded to the Los Angeles Clippers while Rozier remains a Hornet. But there would seem to be every reason for the Bulls to at least reach out to the Jazz to gauge the cost of a potentially settling presence for an offense that has two high-end offensive engines but no table-setter.
As Conley has previously relayed, he has been aware of their interest in the past.
“There were a couple of teams that were involved,” Conley told Sam Amick of The Athletic about his 2021 venture into the open market. “It was Chicago, Dallas. … New York was early, and then they kind of were off and on. For me, it was simple. It was the easiest decision.”
Despite the need – and the appeal of Conley’s contract being partially guaranteed for only $14.3 million of the $24.3 million he is set to be paid next season – it might be a moot point.
“Conley is another interesting case for the Jazz, because he may ultimately be more valuable to Utah than what the Jazz could get from trading him,” explains Tony Jones of The Athletic. “At least one Western Conference team offered a significant expiring contract for Conley earlier in the season, sources say. But the Jazz weren’t interested. Conley has been a rock to lean on for a young locker room. He’s happy in Utah, and the Jazz are happy with him.”
His contract becomes fully guaranteed 48 hours after the 2023 NBA Draft concludes on June 22 which would make it easier to move him in theory. But, in practice, it’s more complicated for the Bulls who could only offer Ball or DeRozan in a 1-for-1 deal.
Lonzo Ball’s Future Clouds Bulls’ Outlook
Ball was the perfect complement to LaVine and DeRozan as a playmaker who did not need to dribble the air out of the ball to run the offense, instead keeping the offense flowing with hockey assists, hit-ahead passes in transition, and timely defense while also being disruptive defensively.
Without him, they have tried a slew of mid-to-lower-tiered options and could double back to 2019 first-round pick Coby White should they retain him in restricted free agency.
As for Ball, it’s anyone’s guess as to when or even if he will be back. Until then, the Bulls could do much worse than landing a floor general such as Conley if they can indeed pry him loose from the Timberwolves.