SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz are keeping their All-Star trio together.
The team has agreed to a three-year, $68-million deal with veteran point guard Mike Conley, The Athletic first reported. While there is some question over the final numbers (ESPN reported the deal was worth $72.5 million), this much is clear: Conley will be returning to Utah and that should keep the Jazz near the top of the standings.
Utah had made it clear Conley was their top priority in free agency, and it wasted little time in getting a deal done, agreeing to terms with the All-Star point guard in the opening moments of free agency Monday.
Conley, 33, averaged 16.2 points and six assists per game in his second season in Utah, helping the team to a league-best 52-20 record. Conley shot 44.4% from the field, a career-high 41.2% from 3-point range and was Utah's backcourt best defender.
For the second straight season, however, Conley was plagued with hamstring issues. Those injuries cost him 21 games in the regular season and then five more in the playoffs. Conley missed the first five games of Utah's second-round loss to the Los Angeles Clippers after re-aggravating his hamstring strain. He returned in Game 6 but was clearly not 100%.
Injury concerns notwithstanding, re-signing Conley was a move the Jazz needed to make. Not only was Conley one of the better point guards in the league last season, he was really the Jazz's only major option in free agency.
With fellow All-Stars Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert's new extensions kicking in this season, the Jazz were already over the salary cap before negotiations ever began Monday. The Jazz can go over the cap to retain their own free agents (though that comes with a hefty luxury tax cost), but can only use two exceptions — the taxpayer mid-level exception (about $5.9 million) and the minimum salary exception — to sign new players
If the Jazz had lost Conley, they couldn't have even pursued Kyle Lowry, Chris Paul or any of the other top free agent guards to replace him. With the options available to the team, Conley's production would have been downright impossible to replace, so Monday's news was a win for the franchise. It might not be someone new, but it's a signing that should help keep the Jazz's championship window open.
That made it an easy decision for the Jazz, and likely a simple one for Conley, too. The Jazz were his best option at being on a contender while getting his market value. The Dallas Mavericks and New York Knicks both had cap space and were likely interested in Conley, but the Jazz are better than both of those squads. To get on a better contender, Conley would have had to take a pretty big pay cut. So, in the end, it made a lot of sense for both sides to stick together. And that made for a quick agreement.
Now, the Jazz pivot to adding to a team that finished with the best record in the league with a pretty good sales pitch in hand: Come play with three All-Stars.