Milwaukee Bucks: Mike Conley almost became a Buck in 2009

Mar 31, 2017; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley (11) warms up before the game against the Dallas Mavericks at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 31, 2017; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley (11) warms up before the game against the Dallas Mavericks at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports /

Now one of the best point guards in the league, the Milwaukee Bucks very nearly pulled off a trade for Mike Conley back in 2009.

Although the Milwaukee Bucks certainly found something in Malcolm Brogdon, they still face some questions at the point guard position, and have done for a number of years.

For those who weren’t already aware, the latest episode of Zach Lowe of ESPN’s The Lowe Post podcast revealed that they almost pulled off a heist back in 2009 that would have landed them one of the league’s very best point guards.

Long-time Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley joined Lowe for a wide-ranging conversation about life in the NBA, and more specifically the ups and downs of his time in Memphis.

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Among one of the stories that surfaced was just how close the Grizzlies came to trading the man who would become their star point guard, and how incredibly close the Bucks came to completing a trade for the Arkansas native.

Lowe pointed out that he didn’t know or had forgotten one particular instance where Conley was almost traded, before stumbling across it in research for the episode:

"“It’s well-chronicled that the Grizzlies at least explored trading you when you were younger, and they were frustrated, development wasn’t going as fast as they’d hoped — Chris Wallace [Grizzlies general manager] has talked about this. And the Bucks were one of the teams they’d looked at back then, I think for Ramon Sessions.”"

Conley recalled:

"“I remember that whole scene, man. I remember being in Toronto and basically being pulled out of the game, and being told you’re not playing the rest of the game. I was in the locker room just like ‘What is going on?’ I kinda called my Dad like ‘Am I getting traded?’, and he was like ‘Yeah, looks like you’ve got this on the table’, and so I was trying to prepare my mind for it.”"

The deal that was reported at the time would have seen the Bucks send Ramon Sessions and Joe Alexander to Memphis in exchange for Conley.

Much like Conley, Sessions was in just his second season in the league, but he had started to earn a more significant role in Milwaukee’s rotation. Alexander on the other hand was still in his rookie season having been selected as the eighth overall pick, and would end up out of the league for good a little over a year later.

With the deal apparently so close, what was it that ultimately stopped Conley landing in Milwaukee?

Conley’s teammate Marc Gasol, who went on to be a Defensive Player of the Year and three-time All-Star, certainly influenced the eventual outcome. Lowe described how he’d heard Gasol “called the local paper” to voice his dissatisfaction over the potential deal.

Conley explained the bond between the two men, and how Gasol’s intervention ultimately came about:

"“The next thing I know, Marc gets wind of it, and me and him were tied to the hip. We were both on the end of the bench together, we’d been through the whole thing together. He was just like, ‘Man, out of all the people on the team you’re the only guy who knows how to win. You’re unselfish. You care about the team more than you care about yourself, and everybody else here is just trying to better themselves’. And those are the things he would go out and say to the media, and to Chris Wallace, and I didn’t know he had said it until later. And when I did, I just kinda gave him a hug and said ‘Man, I appreciate it, because I surely didn’t want to go anywhere.”"

Gasol’s exact quotes appeared in Memphis’ The Commercial Appeal on Jan. 18, 2009:

"“That trade doesn’t make any sense. It’s wrong. I wouldn’t trade Mike. You’re looking and you’re trying to do something to fix this, but that isn’t the right thing. There’s more to what’s going on.”"

Not exactly in any position to make such demands or speak out of line in that fashion at that time, regardless, Gasol’s decision to do so ultimately paid off.

If the Bucks had ended up with Conley it’s entirely possible that the franchise’s trajectory could have turned sooner, and perhaps they never get to their current state and core of players. It was that summer that Brandon Jennings was drafted, and without him players like Khris Middleton and Tony Snell certainly couldn’t have landed in Milwaukee on the path which they did.

Next: 2017 NBA Mock Draft 1.0: Projecting selections after the Draft Lottery

Still, it’s hard not to think of the player Conley is now and ponder a tantalizing what if scenario for a franchise that’s almost perennially bereft of point guard talent.