3 things we’ve learned about the Memphis Grizzlies this offseason

Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant (12) - Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports
Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant (12) - Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports /
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Derrick Rose of the New York Knicks warms up. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)
Derrick Rose of the New York Knicks warms up. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images) /

3. Memphis believes its problems were more off the court than on last season

The Grizzlies decided not to address their playoff depth issues in free agency. They certainly did address an even more pressing issue that plagued them throughout the 2022-23 season: off-court behavior.

Ja Morant’s first suspension didn’t tank the Grizzlies’ regular season, but it tanked the Grizzlies’ vibes that were once the envy of the league. His upcoming 25-game suspension must be the last time his behavior costs him games.

Though Morant naturally was the most noteworthy name attached to off-court dramas, he was certainly not alone.

The maturity of this Memphis squad, the fifth-youngest in the NBA last season, repeatedly came under scrutiny for reckless trash talk and woeful road performance. Credit to Zach Kleiman and the front office for taking active steps to bring veteran leadership to the 2023-24 iteration of the Grizzlies.

Marcus Smart is by no means a creaky veteran at 29, but he has played in 108 playoff games – 10 more than the Grizzlies franchise – and has appeared in five Conference Finals.

The 2022 Defensive Player of the Year and three-time NBA Hustle Player of the Year was often described as Boston’s “heart and soul” during this extended contending era.

He will command respect and demand intensity from his new team.

The Derrick Rose acquisition was an even more obvious attempt to fix the locker room. Rose may not offer much on the court, but the Grizzlies were willing to give him a two-year guaranteed deal because he can help them so much off of it.

It’s no secret that the Grizzlies are bringing in Rose to mentor Morant. Rose went through his own highly-publicized off-court drama and came out the other side a better person. Now, he will guide Morant through this same process.

He might also have a word of advice about all the hard landings Morant subjects himself to.

Smart and Rose bring 23 years and 160 playoff games worth of combined experience. Both have assumed leadership roles on their past teams.

Smart will be a huge part of the Grizzlies’ rotation throughout the season and playoffs. He becomes the primary wing defender with Dillon Brooks’ departure for Houston.

He will also likely be the starting point guard while Morant is out.

After that, Smart will almost certainly remain in the starting lineup alongside Morant and Bane. Rose will likely soak up guard minutes during Morant’s absence and see spot duty after that. But the biggest reason why both are in Memphis has nothing to do with basketball and everything to do with maturity.

The front office witnessed the off-court disasters and came up with the best solution possible: bring in veterans.

At least in Rose’s case, that comes at the expense of adding a better player.

But the Grizzlies believe that their crop of recent first-round picks will pan out and that their problems last season were largely off the court. If they’re right, then the opportunity cost of signing Rose will be more than worth it.