Mike Conley

Raiders giving Trayvon Mullen first chance to fill Gareon Conley's spot

Raiders giving Trayvon Mullen first chance to fill Gareon Conley's spot

ALAMEDA – Gareon Conley is no longer a Raider. The 2017 first-round draft pick was traded to the Houston Texans for a 2020 third-round pick on Monday, a day after he played 97 percent of Raiders defensive snaps in a 42-24 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

Somebody else will have to anchor one outside cornerback spot moving forward.

Trayvon Mullen will take over Conley’s spot. This year’s second-round draft pick will get first crack at the job vacancy, though the Raiders have other options on the roster.

“Trayvon is progressively improving,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said. “The only way to get these guys ready for primetime is to put them out there. We like the progress he has made. That’s why we took him at the top of the second round. We really like Isaiah Johnson and the way he looked last week on the practice field and Nevin Lawson has started 50 games. Throw in Keisean Nixon and we’ve got some guys we want to take a look at.

“We’re going to try to get Trayvon ready to go.”

Mullen will take over Sunday when the Raiders face Houston, with Conley awkwardly on the other sideline.

Mullen hasn’t played much this season, just 14 defensive snaps over the last three games and 78 in total this season. His professional career didn’t start with a bang, as he gave up three catches for 27 yards and a long touchdown against Denver. He hasn’t seen the field much since, though he worked 27 snaps in a Week 2 loss to Kansas City before his workload dropped precipitously.

Gruden knows Mullen will be a focal point of opposing offenses in coming weeks, until he proves he belongs.

“He's going to get targeted quite a bit, like all rookie cornerbacks,” Gruden said. ”It’s part of the process. I know he was in a tough spot opening night against Denver, but I have seen day-to-day concentration. I’ve seen day-to-day competitiveness and gradual improvement. He’s a guy who has a lot of confidence.”

The Raiders loved Mullen coming out of Clemson. He has the physical skills to play aggressive press-man coverage, with speed and range and ball skills required to succeed in Paul Guenther’s system. They would’ve gladly taken him at No. 35 overall but were able to trade down a few times and still land him at No. 40.

Mullen wasn’t targeted much at Clemson but was strong in big games and a complete player coming into the draft after his junior year.

The Raiders also took Isaiah Johnson in the fourth round, though he will spend the first eight games on injured reserve before an expected return in Week 10 against the L.A. Chargers.

Johnson will be in the defensive mix if he proves ready. Mullen has the first opportunity, and that starts now as we head into towards midseason.

“He has size and he’s young,” Gruden said. “He’s still raw and still has some green to him. He’s a great kid and a great competitor. He has change of direction. He’s tough. He has a lot of pride He has big upside.

[RELATED: Grading Raiders in loss to Packers]

“I feel the same way about Isaiah. These guys need to get on the grass and play. I’ll take responsibility for how that goes, but I have their backs. I have a lot of confidence in them. I want to see them go out there and deal with some of the best receivers in football.”

Kings vs. Jazz watch guide: Projected lineups, injuries, player usage

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AP

Kings vs. Jazz watch guide: Projected lineups, injuries, player usage

The Sacramento Kings get their first look at a revamped Utah Jazz team Monday evening when they travel to Salt Lake City. A 50-win team last season, the Jazz bolstered their roster with Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic during the summer and look primed to jump into the contender conversation.

Sacramento is fresh off a win over the Phoenix Suns and are looking to move to .500 on the preseason. The Kings also made substantial changes in the offseason as they try to snap their 13-year playoff drought.

Tip is set for 6 p.m. PT at Vivint Smart Home Arena, although the game is not available on television.

The Kings return home following the contest to face Melbourne United in their final preseason game Wednesday at Golden 1 Center.

Where to Watch: Game is not televised

Line: Jazz by 4.5

Projected Starting Lineup

Kings

PG De’Aaron Fox
SG Buddy Hield
SF Harrison Barnes
PF Marvin Bagley
C Dewayne Dedmon

Jazz

PG Mike Conley
SG Donovan Mitchell
SF Bojan Bogdanovic
PF Royce O’Neale
C Rudy Gobert

Injury Report

Kings

PG Cory Joseph (calf) OUT, SF Trevor Ariza (lipoma) OUT, C Harry Giles (left knee soreness) OUT, PG Tyler Ulis (groin) OUT, PF Tyler Lydon (hip) OUT, F Hollis Thompson (hip) OUT.

Jazz

PG Danté Exum (right knee rehab) OUT, F Juwan Morgan (left ankle sprain) QUESTIONABLE, PG Emmanuel Mudiay (left hamstring soreness) QUESTIONABLE.

What to Watch

Bagley vs. The Stretch 4

Marvin Bagley’s move into the starting lineup is going to create matchup issues. Sometimes it will be good for the Kings, but other times, he might be a liability, at least until he figures out how to guard stretch fours on a consistent basis. Utah runs a group of sharpshooters at power forward, including Joe Ingles, Bojan Bogdanovic and Jeff Green.

Battle of the Backcourts

It doesn’t get much better than this. De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield are an up and coming duo that play at a breakneck pace. Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell are a perfect mix of veteran savvy and incredible athleticism. A floor general, a slasher, a shooter and an aerial acrobat.

Warriors vs. the West: How Dubs match up against Jazz in 2019-20

Warriors vs. the West: How Dubs match up against Jazz in 2019-20

For the first time in five seasons, the Warriors find themselves in new territory entering the 2019-20 season. With Kevin Durant gone to the Brooklyn Nets, Klay Thompson rehabbing his surgically repaired left ACL and eight new players on the roster, the Warriors are not the preseason NBA title favorites. 

As the Warriors reconcile a new reality, the rest of the Western Conference has retooled with superstar talent. Over the next seven days, NBC Sports Bay Area will examine teams that are expected to challenge Golden State's Western Conference throne.

Monday's edition: The Utah Jazz.

Offseason transactions

A month after losing in the first round of the postseason, Utah traded Grayson Allen, Kyle Korver, Jae Crowder and two draft picks to the Memphis Grizzlies for guard Mike Conley, a move that puts the Jazz among the best teams in the Western Conference. 

Conley, 32, is one of the best point guards in the league, averaging 21.1 points, 6.4 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game. More importantly, paired with rising star Donovan Mitchell in the backcourt, the move gives the Jazz one of the best backcourts in the league. 

In addition to Conley, Utah signed guard Bojan Bogdanovic, who averaged a career-high 18.1 points on 49.7 percent from the field last season with the Pacers, which included a career-high 42.5 percent from 3-point range. Rounding out the summer, Utah signed guard Emmanual Mudiay, forward Ed Davis and Jeff Green. 

Strengths

With a starting five of Mitchell, Conley, Bogdanovic, Joe Ingles and Rudy Gobert, the Jazz have one of the best first units in the league. 

Last season, Utah's offense was criticized for its overreliance on Mitchell, who shot just 41 percent from the field. Conley's addition is expected to take pressure off Mitchell, while Bogdanovic will help spread the floor for the 23-year old. 

Helping Utah's starting five will be its defense, which ranked second in the league in defensive efficiency last season. The unit, anchored by Gobert in the middle, was third in the league in blocks and held teams to just 45.2 percent from the field. 

Weaknesses

The Jazz had an average bench last season, but with Mudiay, Green and Dante Exum, the second unit could struggle to find scoring with any of the starting unit on the bench, which would require Mitchell or Conley on the floor for the majority of of the game. 

Additionally, for the Jazz to take the next step as a team, Mitchell has to be more efficient. Over his career, he's shooting just 43 percent from the field on 18 field goal attempts per game. However, he showed promise towards the end of the season, averaging 24 points on 46 percent from the field over his last 14 games.

How the Warriors stack up

Utah's summer moves put them among the best teams in the Western Conference on paper. As it pertains to the Warriors, Utah presents a number of challenges due to their length and shooting. 

[RELATED: Warriors rookies Poole, Paschall itching for season to start

With eight new players on the roster, Golden State will have little idea of how cohesive they will be through the first few months of the season. The one constant in the matchup has been the play of Steph Curry, who averaged 29.0 points on 51 percent from the field in three games against Utah last season. 

If the Warriors can summon enough to make a late-season playoff run and the Jazz can live up to expectations, this could be an intriguing playoff matchup.