3 things Grizzlies learned from Ja Morant's return vs. Pelicans

Dec 19, 2023; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant, center, is mobbed by
Dec 19, 2023; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant, center, is mobbed by / Matthew Hinton-USA TODAY Sports
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1. Marcus Smart will be highly valuable within Ja Morant-led rotation

The experiment of running Marcus Smart as the primary one for the Grizzlies while Morant served out his 25-game suspension proved to be a rather grandiose failure as the team only managed to muster up a measly record of 2-9 during his 11 starts before injury and posted averages of just 12.5 points, 5.0 assists, and 2.5 rebounds on just 42.9 percent shooting from the floor.

That said, while some are already writing off the veteran's acquisition this past offseason as a mistake, there's still hope that his services could be of great use for Memphis, especially once he can primarily serve more as a ball-stopper on the defensive end, something they could have seriously used against the Pelicans.

While the bulk of attention from Wednesday's contest is being drawn toward Morant's storybook showing, and deservedly so, one mustn't lose sight of the fact that the Pelicans very likely would have pulled out the victory had it not been for the star's mesmerizing performance, and a major reason for this was due to the fact that they were simply shooting lights out from the floor.

For the vast majority of the game, NOLA's offense seemed to be borderline unstoppable, as they shot 47.1 percent from the field and 44.0 percent from deep while also seeing a nauseating 23-0 run during the second period (converted on 68.4 percent of their attempts overall and 62.5 percent from deep during this stretch).

Say what you will about Smart, but had he been out there on the floor rather than sidelined due to a nagging ankle injury it's hard to believe that the Pelicans would have been as successful in the scoring department, particularly stud guard CJ McCollum who went 4-of-4 from deep and dropped 12 points in quarter number two alone.

Having the superstar back as the primary floor general will now allow Smart to serve in his more natural role of perimeter pest and overall enforcer on the less glamorous side of the ball, thus hopefully giving the Grizzlies an absolutely menacing one-two punch on both ends of the floor with Morant and Bane aiding as the focal points on offense and having the veteran and Jaren Jackson Jr. clamping down as their defensive leaders on both the inside and outside.