How the Grizzlies can still win the Marcus Smart trade after a disastrous 1st season

The Grizzlies still could claim victory from the Marcus Smart trade if things break right.
Memphis Grizzlies, Taylor Jenkins, Marcus Smart
Memphis Grizzlies, Taylor Jenkins, Marcus Smart / Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

The Memphis Grizzlies traded Tyus Jones and two first-round draft picks to land Marcus Smart from Boston in the offseason. They had made three straight playoff appearances but won just one series. The Grizzlies hoped to vault into contention by adding “the heart and soul” of the Celtics. It was a bold move and disaster struck in year one.

Ja Morant played just nine games after returning from his suspension. He suffered a shoulder injury, which required season-ending surgery, and planted Memphis near the bottom of the standings. The Grizzlies believe they can contend in 2025, but it is not happening without Morant and a strong supporting cast.

Smart has two years and $41.8 million remaining on his contract after this season. There were some trade rumors before the deadline, but the Grizzlies never got to see this version of their roster in action. Their story is yet to be written, and the door is wide open for Memphis to win the Smart trade.

The Marcus Smart trade could turn into a massive win for the Grizzlies

Zach Kleiman and his front office dreamed of Smart being a lockdown defender on the perimeter and helping Memphis have the best unit in the league. The Grizzlies finished third in defensive rating in 2023 and should be even better with Smart. They needed the 6’3 guard’s playmaking and energy too. He replaces Dillon Brooks as their stopper and ignitor.

Smart averaged 14.5 points, 4.3 assists, 2.7 rebounds, and 2.1 steals in 30.3 minutes per game in his first season with the Grizzlies. They split six games with Morant and Smart together, but it is too small of a sample. Smart’s shooting woes are concerning, but Memphis having an elite defense and making a deep playoff run is the goal. If the Grizzlies are in the conference finals in 2025, this trade will quickly become a win for Memphis.

To maximize Smart, they must get him to buy into a lesser offensive role. Let Morant, Desmond Bane, and Jaren Jackson Jr. do the heavy lifting on offense. The 6’3 guard should be focused on playing hard-nosed defense and making plays on both ends. Smart’s scoring dipping is expected and could be a welcome sign for Memphis. It means Morant is healthy and taking things over.

The success or failure of this trade will come down to how the Grizzlies perform in the next two years. If Memphis makes two deep playoff runs, it is worth every penny, especially if Smart is a key cog in their success. The Celtics reached the playoffs every year with Smart and made the NBA Finals in 2022. Boston never won a championship, but they were always in the mix with the 30-year-old guard.

Can the Memphis Grizzlies replicate that success with Marcus Smart? He just fits. Smart is a Grit and Grind player. Expect the franchise to keep him this offseason. They believe they are a contender with Smart, and the trade depends on how much they win. Stay tuned to see how it all shakes out.