$76.4 million decision tabbed as 'biggest regret' for Grizzlies in 2023-24

Mar 6, 2024; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Memphis Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins during the
Mar 6, 2024; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Memphis Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins during the / Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Wrapping up with a putrid record of 27-55, it's easy to believe that the Memphis Grizzlies are already looking back at their 2023-24 campaign with quite a bit of disdain and overall disappointment.

From key player suspensions to a record-setting number of injuries, when the tale is told of their gap-year that was, it's all but certain that fans and team personnel alike will be pondering on the "what could have beens" had a few things gone a bit different.

Though some hardships endured such as health-issues were simply out of anyone's control, there are arguments to be made that the Grizzlies may have some regrets regarding decisions made during the campaign, with Grant Hughes of Bleacher Report noting that perhaps the biggest blunder of all may have been their acquisition of veteran guard, Marcus Smart.

Marcus Smart trade tabbed as 'biggest regret' for Memphis Grizzlies

Acquired last July via trade with the Boston Celtics, the hope with bringing a talent such as Smart aboard was that he could help shore up the team's secondary playmaking that, previously, was the responsibility of Tyus Jones while simultaneously providing a similar, if not greater jolt of defensive energy and intensity that Dillon Brooks had brought during his six-year stint in Grind City.

Unfortunately, due to injuries galore that impacted both him and, frankly, the entirety of the Grizzlies roster, the 30-year-old's impact fell way short of preseason expectations, which, in turn, has Hughes arguing that, at the moment, the deal could realistically be categorized as a "disaster."

"He logged just 20 games and couldn't help Memphis avoid one of the most disappointing seasons in the league.

Tyus Jones went to the Washington Wizards in the three-team exchange that landed Smart, and the Grizzlies' previous backup point guard shot 41.4 percent from deep and led the league in assist-to-turnover ratio for the sixth straight season. He probably would have been a better caretaker in Morant's absence than Smart, even if the latter had been healthy.

And let's not let Memphis off the hook on that specific front; Smart's rugged style means missed time should have been the expectation. Prior to this season, he'd exceeded 70 games just once since 2018-19.

The Grizzlies also gave up the pick that became Marcus Sasser, who has an outside shot at making an All-Rookie team, and the rights to the Warriors' top-four-protected 2024 first-round pick."

Grant Hughes

Even in the 20 games he did suit up for, his productivity can be classified as solid at best. Though he did register a career high 14.5 points and 2.1 steals, and would dish out 4.3 assists per game, Smart did so while shooting a pedestrian 43.0 percent from the floor, 31.3 percent from deep, and while coughing up 3.1 turnovers a night.

On top of all this, he would go on to register a career low -2.4 box plus-minus rating.

Granted, as noted, the vast majority of this Grizzlies team was ravaged by health-related ailments all throughout the season, meaning Smart was unable to find any consistency and build chemistry with the core he was brought aboard to help compliment in Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, and Jaren Jackson Jr., so perhaps he may be worthy of a pass for his underwhelming debut campaign.

Still, with two years and $41.3 million remaining on his current $76.4 million deal, should he find himself putting forth this same level of production at a similar rate of efficiency, this once perceived win-now transaction could look to be one of the worst moves made by this usually steady front office.

In the meantime, all we can hope for is a better 2024-25 with health finally on Memphis' side!