Analyst dishes harrowing take on Grizzlies guard Marcus Smart

Bleacher Report's Zach Buckley suggests that Marcus Smart's lowly production and lacking availability with the Grizzlies in 2023-24 could be more than just a down season.
Memphis Grizzlies v Phoenix Suns
Memphis Grizzlies v Phoenix Suns / Chris Coduto/GettyImages
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The Marcus Smart experiment has yet to prove itself successful for the Memphis Grizzlies.

Last summer's addition of the defensive stalwart and established leader was initially seen as a move that suggested Grind City was going all-in on a win-now movement, and that the seasoned veteran could be the type of player and overall presence to help Taylor Jenkins' talented albeit green team get over the proverbial hump.

Of course, what ultimately ended up happening was virtually every relevant contributor, including Smart, received significant chomps from the injury bug, resulting in Memphis setting the record for most players in league history to suit up for one team in a single season.

The point guard, himself, only played roughly two months of sporadic ball during his debut campaign with the Grizzlies, which, though certainly a small sample size, even when active on the hardwood his productivity seemed extremely clunky and incredibly inconsistent.

While he did post a career-high in points per game (14.5), he saw his worst assist numbers (4.3 per game) since the 2018-19 season, his lowest three-point shooting percentage (31.3) since 2017-18, and a career worst in turnovers per game (3.1).

Though some may chalk his lackluster first season in navy, blue, and yellow threads up to health-related issues that impacted both his availability and potential to build chemistry with the team's core, many are already viewing the acquisition as a full-blown mistake, and, to Bleacher Report's Zach Buckley, the fear of the decline of Smart seems to be very real.

Marcus Smart's lowly Grizzlies debut could mark 'the start of his decline'

In his recent piece where he re-grades the most noteworthy moves made from the 2023 NBA Offseason, Buckley, whose own B/R cohort Greg Swartz originally gave the Grizzlies' trade for Smart an "A," now views Zach Kleiman's decision to be a true eye-sore, and even suggested that the worst may still be revealed.

"If everything broke just right, though, Smart could have helped the Grizzlies survive Ja Morant's 25-game suspension, withstand the subtraction of wing stopper Dillon Brooks and check some boxes for secondary playmaking, postseason experience and defensive versatility.

Exactly none of that came to fruition.

Injuries, which have quietly played a fairly significant role in Smart's career, limited him to just 20 appearances, and even the games he played were choppy as heck. His assists were down (4.3) and his turnovers were up at a career-worst level (3.1). He had a bad shooting season even by his standards (31.3 three-point percentage, his worst since 2017-18). The Grizzlies lost 13 of the 20 games he played.

The 30-year-old has time to bounce back, of course, but it wouldn't be shocking if last season marked the start of his decline. And even if it didn't, he still looks like an awkward fit alongside Ja Morant, since neither possesses great size or reliable outside shots."

Zach Buckley

Though he may only be 30 years old, Buckley seems to be under the impression that Smart's years of wear and tear could officially be catching up to him, a fear that is only exacerbated by the fact that he is coming off a career-low 20 games played, which is a whopping 28 few than his second-lowest game total of 48, which took place during the league's 2020-21 72-game regular season as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With two years and roughly $41.7 million remaining on his current contract, the hope is that the guard and this Grizzlies medical staff can find a way to stave off any more injuries and get his body right to be a full-time participant and contributor within coach Jenkins' rotation moving forward.

With his nitty-gritty style of play, leadership abilities, and extensive postseason experience, Smart is a personality that Memphis could seriously benefit from having on their side as they look to push for the franchise's first-ever Larry O'Brien Trophy.

However, Buckley correctly believes that his play-type is a bit of an odd fit next to the likes of Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, and Jaren Jackson Jr., and, added onto the fact that his health and age are currently not seen as being on his side, the analyst is harrowingly worried that this could be the beginning of the decline in Marcus Smart's career.

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