As part of their ongoing summer review of players around the league Matt Moore, Zach Harper, and James Herbert at CBS Sports have examined three point guard matchups: Kyrie Irving vs. John Wall, Ty Lawson vs. Jeff Teague, and Mike Conley vs. Damian Lillard.
The writers don't ask which player would win a one-on-one game, they want to know which player you'd grab if you were lucky enough to be on a playground choosing sides for a pickup game and these guys were still available for your team.
This is what they have to say about Conley/Lillard:
Harper: Conley's far superior defense and generally underappreciated offensive production makes this a very close call, but given the state of the game, I give the nod to Lillard as a guy who is fast becoming a historic 3-point shooter. He did have a down season last year in terms of efficiency and shooting (especially in the clutch), but I think that was more an outlier than it was what we should expect from Lillard moving forward. Things will be tougher with LaMarcus Aldridge gone and with the Blazers rebuilding, but I feel confident we're going to see an even better Lillard adapt to this experience.
Herbert: Conley. This is entirely because of defense -- everybody knows how great Lillard is as a scorer, especially in high-pressure situations. He's entirely deserving of the maximum contract extension he got this summer. His defense, though, must improve.
It's not as if Lillard isn't trying. He made improvements last season, but he has not shown a consistent ability to disrupt opposing point guards while playing heavy minutes and running the team. Conley's ability to do that exact thing for the Grizzlies, all the time, even when hurt, is what makes him so special.
Moore: Listen, I'm a huge fan of Damian Lillard -- but this is all Mike Conley and it shouldn't be close. Probably what makes it seems like a closer call is perception. Conley doesn't seem great at anything. He's quick but not explosive. He's a good shooter but not lights out. He has great vision but doesn't rack up huge assist numbers. He's just very strong in every area, with very few, if any, weaknesses, and he runs Memphis' offense perfectly, making sure the ball is getting into the right hands in the right spots while keeping the tempo where the Grizzlies want it. Conley has never been an All-Star, but there's a reason he's always spoken of in those terms. His impact goes well beyond the box score.
It's an interesting debate. Who you got on the asphalt- Conley or Lillard?