Grizzlies urged to consider trade swap of Marcus Smart for title-winning center

Nov 1, 2023; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Memphis Grizzlies guard Marcus Smart (36) watches the Utah
Nov 1, 2023; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Memphis Grizzlies guard Marcus Smart (36) watches the Utah / Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports
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Marcus Smart's debut season with the Memphis Grizzlies fell well short of preseason expectations. Originally tabbed as a highly logical win-now move for the franchise, due to an abundance of internal hiccups such as injuries and undeveloped team chemistry, the impact many believed the veteran would have out in Grind City was unfortunately not experienced in 2023-24.

Of course, considering he's still under contract for the next two seasons, the hope is that, with health and, in turn, a fully intact roster on their side, Smart and the Grizzlies as a whole can find a way to make things work in 2024-25 and stave off any branding of last summer's blockbuster being a major regret for the organization.

However, some believe that the experiment may have already run its course and that GM Zach Kleiman and company should look to flip the defensive stalwart's value on the trade market in exchange for more desirable commodities at other areas of need.

During a recent episode of Locked on Grizzlies, host Joe Mullinax went as far as to propose a hypothetical scenario involving Smart heading outbound, as he suggested that Memphis may want to consider dangling him in the direction of the Milwaukee Bucks in an attempt to pry starting pivot, Brook Lopez, away in the process.

Grizzlies urged to consider swapping Marcus Smart for Brook Lopez

Citing Milwaukee's need to "shake things up" after a disappointing first-round exit in this year's playoffs along with their capability to simply slide superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo down from the four to the five, Mullinax believes that a proven leader and natural off-ball guard like Smart pairing with the Greek Freak and star floor general Damian Lillard could make such an idea rather plausible.

"Giannis playing the five could make sense for them. If you did a Marcus Smart for Brook Lopez swap, give or take a pick here or there depending on where you think it has to come from, does that help both teams? A [Damian] Lillard, Marcus Smart starting backcourt and then you have Brook Lopez playing the five alongside Jaren Jackson Jr.... I think that is intriguing with two teams that obviously have shared lineage, right, with Taylor Jenkins' relationship with Milwaukee in the past... How that plays out is going to be interesting to watch."

Joe Mullinax

Since joining on with the Milwaukee Bucks back in 2018 Lopez has established himself as one of the game's premier interior defenders, nabbing two All-Defensive nods while manning the middle during the club's NBA Championship run back in 2021.

On top of his exceptional efforts on the less glamorous side of the ball, the 35-year-old sports a sound offensive game and a highly dependable long-range shooting stroke, as he has shot 35.4 percent from deep on 5.0 attempts per game since signing with the Bucks six years ago.

This past season, Lopez once again found himself producing admirably, as he wrapped up the campaign with averages of 12.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks on 48.5 percent shooting from the floor and 36.6 percent shooting from deep.

Initially, the primary reason why the Grizzlies opted to strike a trade for the likes of Smart was to try and fill the void on the defensive end that was created following the departure of Dillon Brooks last July.

Though it goes without saying that the former Defensive Player of the Year is still expected to produce at his general lofty levels on this side of the ball moving forward, Mullinax's proposal of swapping him for Lopez would still give Memphis a similar level of defensive intensity all while addressing a position in serious need of bolstering along the way.

Adding the 7-foot-1 big to a frontcourt rotation already featuring last year's DPOY winner in Jaren Jackson Jr. would likely form one of, if not the most menacing duo of defensive bigs the league has to offer while his ability to space the floor would allow coach Jenkins to run the always coveted five-out offensive scheme.

At this point in time, all signs seem to point to the Grizzlies opting to run things back with Smart in tow, as they have yet to see what a fully healthy lineup consisting of him could look like for more than a handful of games.

However, should the front office be looking to shop him ahead of next season, there's much to like about them looking toward striking on an exchange similar to what Mullinax has proposed with Lopez.

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