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Many say trade for Conley makes Jazz an instant contender

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Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley (11) drives to the basket as Utah Jazz guard Ricky Rubio, rear, defends in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Oct. 22, 2018, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

(KUTV) — "Welcome to the championship chase, Utah."

The Utah Jazz traded for veteran point guard Mike Conley Jr., giving up crowd favorites Jae Crowder, Kyle Korver and young player Grayson Allen. The Jazz has coveted the point guard and was rumored to be close to a deal for him last season, just before the trade deadline.

More than one voice around the NBA thinks the move is a big win for the Jazz. How big? Big enough to make the team Western Conference title contenders.

Kevin O'Connor at the Ringer.com not only welcomed the team to the championship chase, he says this trade is as meaningful as the Lakers' deal earlier this off season.

"Utah should be taken as seriously as Los Angeles next season," he wrote. "The Jazz will immediately solidify themselves as one of the leading Finals contenders in the Western Conference."

In 2016, Conley signed what was then the richest deal in NBA history, getting a contract for five years and $153 million, the final two seasons will be payed and played as a Jazzman, paid by one of the smaller franchises.

"If Conley Jr. was a free agent, there would be a market for him at two years, $67 million," Bobby Marks Tweeted. As a former vice president and assistant general manager of the Brooklyn Nets, and current NBA reporter for ESPN, he just may know what he is talking about. "The short length of the contract has appeal," he wrote.

The Jazz were expected to try to make a splash in free agency over the summer with up to $33 million in salary cap space, but Conley probably closes a lot of the possibilities for the team to do that. The voice of the Utah Jazz, David Locke, talked on his podcast that Utah might have made the decision to make a trade because of the possibility it couldn't land the free agents it was targeting.

Locke also was told the day before the trade that the Jazz with Conley would make Utah a contender. He tweeted:

Talked with an NBA expert yesterday who said Jazz with Mike Conley would be current favorite in the West

He also said making the trade without giving up Derrick Favors was a strong move for the front office. The big man will be a free agent but signing him immediately would have made a big free agent deal more difficult to sign because of NBA salary cap space.

Albert Burneko at Deadspin offered congratulations to Utah but wasn't complimentary to the players Utah gave up to get its point guard. He called Conley "... one of the NBA’s best and most consistent lead guards, a fantastic, playoff-tested two-way star still in his prime and coming off one of the best individual seasons of his career."

His analysis of players leaving the Jazz was much less complimentary. His headline: "Mike Conley Traded To Utah Jazz For Some Crud"

USA Today listed the Jazz among contenders in the Western Conference and said:

A squad with Mitchell, Joe Ingles and Rudy Gobert already won 50 games. Conley is an upgrade over Ricky Rubio, which means the Jazz could move up a tier.

Not everyone thinks so. The Big Lead says, "If they roll into the 2019-2020 season with this roster, the Jazz will remain a playoff team, but not a true contender." However, the writer incorrectly said the Jazz lost in the first round of the playoffs the last two seasons, so maybe he hasn't been watching closely. The team beat Oklahoma City two playoffs ago.

Conley averaged 21 points and 6.4 assists a game in 33 minutes, appearing in 70 games. Though the deal can't become official until July 6, and neither the Jazz nor Grizzlies have confirmed it, Conley has. He tweeted:

Time for another chapter! Excited to give all I have to The Jazz and Salt Lake City!" #LetsGetit #GodsPlan #takenote

Michael Lee, a senior writer for The Athletic, didn't classify the move in "contender" terms but he was more than positive about the move.

"I love the Mike Conley trade for Utah. My only gripe? Wish it had happened last February, so that he could've made one of those postseason runs that showed casual basketball fans that he really is the goods," he wrote.

Locke also reported two texts he received that were positive about Conley from NBA insiders, though he didn't name names.

"Conley is the best. Total pro, great guy, absolutely zero bs, and also he's really beeping (altered) good," he wrote in one tweet. He followed it with the second text that reportedly said, "everything you hear about Conley is 100% true. Understated, if anything. The man is as good a locker room presence as I've seen. Will thrive in Utah. He's excited about it."