That headline begins with “Will” as in “Will he or won’t he?” rather than as opposed to the first name of today’s subject.
Inadvertent wordplay aside, I’m curious about what the coming year will hold for the the 6-2 guard from Washington. Conroy has played the last five seasons in the D-League and made three brief NBA stops since 2007, totaling 88 minutes in 12 appearances in the Association. Conroy will turn 28 in December, and the clock has begun to tick on his long-term chances to stick at the big-league level.
But he also comes off his best season in the D-League.
It’s rare that a player leads the league in points per game one season, sees said scoring average drop by more than 10 points the next year and has even the beginnings of a case to make that he had a better campaign the second time around. Conroy qualifies.
That’s not an assertion that he was necessarily better in 2009-10 than he was in 2008-09 as the idea that Conroy played overly selfishly two seasons ago may have been exaggerated: He scored 26.5 points per game, but he did so on 58.2 percent true shooting, played more minutes than anyone in the league (44.9 per game) and found time to dish out more than eight assists per outing anyway. When a guy scores at high volume and thus uses a ton of possessions on a team that isn’t winning (Albuquerque went 24-26 that season), it’s easy for his production to get short-sold. So make no mistake: This isn’t a knock on Conroy’s play that season.
But without question, Conroy submitted a more complete performance with Rio Grande Valley in 2010. Playing for the league’s most efficient offense, Conroy found a way to fit in by doing a bit of everything after joining the team just before the turn of the calendar. Though his shooting efficiency was good in the past, Conroy pushed his effective field goal percentage up from 53.4 to 55.2 percent and shot 78.4 percent from the foul line despite averaging 70.9 percent from the stripe in his D-League career, all of which pushed his true shooting to 61.4 percent, tied for a career high. He still averaged 16.4 points per game and took nearly eight less shots per game from the field.
Conroy also settled into the role of primary facilitator in the Vipers’ three-guard offense, handing out 10 assists per game and assisting on 38 percent of his teammates’ baskets scored when he was on the floor. And even in doing so much scoring and distributing, according to Basketball-Reference, Conroy posted the lowest usage percentage of his career (19.6), meaning he didn’t even need to dominate the ball to be as productive as he was for RGV.
But we had seen the scoring and to some extent the distributing previously. The compact guard also hit the boards harder than ever before, nabbing more than six rebounds per game and posting a career high in rebound rate, and he showed greater commitment on the defensive end.
As we discussed ad nauseam earlier in the year (especially with regard to Morris Almond), NBA teams aren’t looking for guys to get 30 touches per game. They look for players who can fill various niches deep in the rotation or provide a versatile array of skills in addition to scoring. In doing everything asked of him throughout the season with the Vipers and playing a key role on a championship team, Conroy demonstrated exactly that. Yes, he can attack and score, but he is capable of running an offense and adding a dimension to the point guard position with his toughness on the glass, and he isn’t a defensive liability.
Conroy may find that his lack of one specific niche skill is a road block in finding a permanent home at the next level. He can shoot the ball from the outside but is far from a first choice out of the D-League as a three-point shooter, having shot just 35.5 percent from beyond the arc for his career. Rebounding isn’t exactly the first priority on the list of GMs searching for a point guard. Whether Conroy has the speed or explosiveness to make the jump to the next level remains a question as well.
But with all that said, this is a guy who did everything and did it well this past season in RGV, and he deserves at least a shot to catch on as a third point guard in the Association. Count me interested to see where he winds up during training camp and his fate thereafter.