The Memphis Grizzlies made their first big move of the offseason late Wednesday night, acquiring Celtics guard Marcus Smart in a three-team trade. In all, the Grizzlies gave up pick 25 in this year’s draft, a 2024 first-round pick (via Golden State), and moved Tyus Jones to the Wizards as part of the deal. The trade came after a separate three-team deal fell apart between the Celtics, Wizards, and Clippers. The full trade details can be seen below.
This trade addresses their perimeter defense that is about to lose Dillon Brooks, as well as replacing the backup point guard spot with Jones also departing in the deal. While two firsts and a top-notch backup in Jones is a steep price to pay, it’s easy to see why Grizzlies GM Zach Kleiman was willing to pay it. Smart has a ton of playoff experience as well as a defensive resume that rivals any guard in the NBA.
He should immediately step in as a locker room presence and make life easier for the rest of their perimeter players on defense. Brooks has had that job for years, but his penchant for taking too many shots hurt the offense. Smart, while being inefficient in his own right (career .471 effective field goal percentage), knows that he isn’t a shooter and limits his attempts. Brooks has a career average of 13.1 shots per game, while Smart is at just 9.2.
Essentially, Smart gives them all the positives of Brooks but less of the infuriating shot attempts. Add in the fact that Smart has improved as a playmaker over the past few seasons (six assists per game in the last three seasons), and you have an adequate replacement for Jones as well. They still have work to do this offseason, especially finding more perimeter shooting. But this trade at least addresses some of their weaknesses as they look to remain near the top of the West in 2023.
The question now for the Grizzlies is how they can continue to add pieces to complete their roster. They still have plenty of draft capital as they own all their own firsts for the foreseeable future. They also have the mid-level exception that can be used on a veteran in free agency.
Another trade for a wing like OG Anunoby or a veteran willing to play on the MLE (Harrison Barnes, Lonnie Walker?) would be a huge boost. Memphis has hesitated to do anything that mortgages the future, but this trade for Smart could be a sign that they are more open to win-now moves. With Ja Morant also a question mark long-term thanks to his off-court behavior, going all in while you can could be the right move.