In the 2019 NBA offseason, the Utah Jazz traded for veteran point guard Mike Conley with the hope that he could make them a more competitive team in the deep Western Conference in the 2019-20 season. Unfortunately, he has gone through plenty of ups and downs since the season started and as of now, he has yet to live up to expectations as someone who was supposed to be Utah’s second-best player behind Donovan Mitchell. And with hours remaining before Thursday’s trade deadline, rumors have started to circulate that the Jazz could use Conley as the main trade chip to further improve their current roster.
In a recent article, The Ringer created a list of two trades every team could make before the trade deadline. For the Jazz, the major deal is one that, in theory, would send Conley to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Chris Paul.
“Paul has been far better in his new setting than Conley, but Conley’s deal is one year shorter and owes $6 million less this season. So while this seems outrageous at first blush—and might still be after multiple blushes—there’s a certain logic to it: OKC gets out of the tax this season and off a max paycheck one year sooner (two, if we’re counting back from Russell Westbrook), while Utah doubles down on the all-in push it started this offseason, with a player who has proved he can work wonders for your young franchise off-guard.”
Though he is two years older, Paul is performing much better than Conley in the current season. In 49 games played so far with the Thunder, the 34-year-old point guard is averaging 17.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, 6.6 assists, and 1.6 steals while shooting 47.7 percent from the field and 35.6 percent from beyond the arc. If he remains healthy, Paul would undeniably be a huge help for the Jazz when the real battle begins in the 2020 playoffs.
Aside from being a very reliable scoring option and having plenty of playoff experience, Paul could be an intriguing acquisition for the Jazz due to his ability to coexist with young players and other ball-dominant superstars. This potentially makes him a perfect fit alongside Mitchell in Utah’s backcourt.
If the hypothetical deal pushes forward, it would not only be beneficial for Utah but also for the Thunder. Trading Paul for Conley would likely affect the Thunder’s chances of earning a playoff spot in the deep Western Conference but it would also help them financially. As The Ringer noted, the trade idea would allow Oklahoma City to go under the luxury tax line this season and have more salary cap flexibility when Conley’s contract expires in the summer of 2021.