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T’Wolves Leader Passes Pair of Legends on All-Time Leaderboard

Minnesota Timberwolves leader Mike Conley

Minnesota Timberwolves veteran Mike Conley Jr. is making a lot of history as of late. Last week, the 36-year-old passed Hall of Fame guard Jerry West —believed to be the inspiration for the NBA logo—in career assists. Last night, Conley passed Hall of Fame wing Julius Erving —a four-time MVP and three-time NBA/ABA champion —in career steals.

It’s time to put his excellence into perspective.

Mike Conley Passes Pair of Legends on All-Time Leaderboard

Now in his 17th season, Conley was the fourth overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft. After leaving Ohio State after a stellar freshman campaign that saw him earn several all-conference honors, Conley spent the first 12 seasons of his career with the Memphis Grizzlies.

There, he’d end up making six playoff runs, with the most successful coming in 2013. Reaching the Western Conference Finals for the first time in his career, Conley averaged 17.0 points, 7.1 assists, and 1.7 steals per game. While he struggled with his efficiency, he ranked top-three among his teammates in each of those categories.

Leaving the Grizzlies

Conley was traded to the Utah Jazz in Jul. 2019 for a package that included Kyle Korver, Grayson Allen, Jae Crowder, Darius Bazley, and a first-round pick. He left the Grizzlies as the franchise’s career leader in games played (788), 3s made (1,086), assists (4,509), steals (1,161), and points (11,733). In short, he’s arguably their best player of all-time.

With the Jazz, Conley’s role was reduced but not in an unfitting way. Tasked with being a floor general rather than go-to scorer, Conley averaged 13.8 points, 5.8 assists, and 1.2 steals per game while shooting 39.4 percent from 3 in three-plus seasons with the Jazz. In 2021, he earned his first-ever All-Star selection as Utah’s leader in assists (6.0) and steals (1.4) per game.

Leaving the Jazz

The Jazz decided to trade franchise cornerstones Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert in the 2022 offseason. This left Conley’s future with the franchise in doubt. As with many older players, his role with a rebuilding team would be that of a mentor. Conley did just that for Collin Sexton, who’s in the midst of a breakout season, after he arrived as a headliner in the Mitchell trade.

Nonetheless, Conley was still playing well enough to make him a valuable addition to a contending team. To that point, multiple teams were hungry for improved point guard play. However, the Timberwolves were willing to surrender a first-round pick for Conley. Subsequently, Conley was moved to Minnesota.

With the Timberwolves, Conley’s the type of playmaker and leader that Minnesota envisioned when they acquired him. A far cry from D’Angelo Russell, Conley’s primary focus is on getting his teammates organized and playing off of them. He’s been invigorated by the youthful energy of the Anthony Edwards-led squad. Nonetheless, his wisdom and even-keeled demeanor have an indelible impact on his teammates.

Conley’s also shooting a career-high 42.7 percent from 3 this season. In fact, Conley’s 3-point percentage is the fifth-highest single-season mark in Timberwolves history. He’s made the 10th-most 3s (147) of any season in Timberwolves history.

Putting it into Perspective

Conley may not be viewed as one of the top point guards to play in the NBA. His individual accolades, aside from his four NBA Sportsmanship Awards, are scarce. His team accomplishments are nil. In a league that focuses more on points than any other statistical category, his production can seem underwhelming.

None of that accurately measures what Conley is capable of. It may indeed indicate what kind of player that he’s not. Nonetheless, it doesn’t reflect the impact that he’s made across nearly two decades for multiple teams.

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