3 ways the Marcus Smart trade helps the Memphis Grizzlies

Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) - Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) - Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports /
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Dillon Brooks, Memphis Grizzlies Boston Celtics
Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) -Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports /

Marcus Smart replaces Dillon Brooks’ elite perimeter defense

Marcus Smart can deliver the elite perimeter defense of Dillon Brooks without the distracting antics and horrific shooting that plagued him, particularly in the playoffs.

Like Bruce Wayne, Dillon Brooks stayed long enough in Memphis to see himself become the villain. But his incredible defensive versatility should not go unappreciated by Grizzlies fans. Brooks took on the toughest defensive assignments almost every game. By some measures, he faced the most difficult defensive assignments in the entire NBA.

Brooks could effectively guard 1-5. While he usually handled the opponents’ best perimeter scorer, he could switch on to bigs when necessary. He famously shut down Karl Anthony-Towns in the fourth quarter of a pivotal Game 5 win vs. the Timberwolves. No matter who he was guarding, his defensive effort never relented. It’s not easy to find an all-around defender like Dillon Brooks.

While his horrific series vs. the Los Angeles Lakers proved it was time to go, the Grizzlies had no adequate replacement for Brooks on the roster. Desmond Bane is growing into a solid defender, but his negative wingspan prevents him from shutting down big wing scorers. David Roddy and Ziaire Williams are quite simply not ready for an NBA starting role. Given that Brooks could walk for nothing this summer via unrestricted free agency, it appeared the Grizzlies might have a gaping hole in the middle of their starting lineup.

Enter Marcus Smart. The 2021-2022 NBA Defensive Player of the Year has also earned First Team All-Defense status three times in his career. Like Brooks, Smart can guard all five positions. Though he stands at just 6’4”, he possesses a 6’9” wingspan and tremendous strength. His defense dropped off a bit in 2022-23 – his defensive rating was four points worse than his DPOY season – but that may have been a reflection of the Celtics’ overall struggles on that end.

Smart can guard the other team’s best perimeter player and size up to posts when the situation calls. One thing he does even better than Brooks is creating turnovers. Smart has been one of the league’s best at generating steals throughout his career.

Smart also brings the fire the Grizzlies might otherwise miss without Dillon Brooks, without the type of self-inflicted wounds Brooks inflicted with his reckless trash talk and dirty plays. He’s a far better offensive player than Brooks, too, particularly for the Grizzlies needs. While Smart is not an elite shooter, he brings another dynamic to the Memphis offense.