Memphis Grizzlies Offseason Report Card

The Memphis Grizzlies were the 2-seed in the Western Conference for the second straight year in 2022-23, but once again playoff success eluded them as they were bounced out of the first round by the Los Angeles Lakers. Injuries played a role, as they struggled to handle the size of L.A. without Steven Adams, but they also weren’t able to put enough complete offensive performances as a team. The shooting woes of players not named Desmond Bane were notable, with Dillon Brooks becoming the focal point for many in the series as he failed to back up his talk with high-level play on the court.

Brooks is now gone after landing a big contract in Houston and the Grizzlies focal point this summer was to upgrade that spot in the starting lineup between Ja Morant and Desmond Bane. They did that in a rather surprising manner in the trade market prior to free agency opening, adding Marcus Smart to the roster. That gives them an extremely formidable starting five, but there are at least a few depth questions behind that starting group that will need to be answered as the season goes on. Still, for a team with a clear need to upgrade its playoff rotation, they’ve done that in a big way. Now they’ll just have to navigate Ja Morant’s absence for the first 25 games of the season and try to stay in range until at full strength to try to once again nap a top seed in the West to try out their new postseason roster.

Here we’ll grade out the Grizzlies offseason work thus far in the Draft, free agency and contract extensions, and the trade market.

Draft: B-

While Memphis didn’t have a first round pick in this year’s draft, the team with the best draft record in the NBA recently made a pair of picks in the second round, taking Gregory “G.G.” Jackson from South Carolina at No. 45 overall and Tarik Biberovic from the Turkish League with the 56th pick. Jackson is the most interesting of those two, as a former highly touted recruit that reclassified and is now the youngest player in the NBA. The forward has serious scoring potential but needs considerable refinement, and is expected to be on a two-way that allows him to get considerable G League reps. Jackson is a long-term play on upside, a useful gamble in the second round for a Memphis team that doesn’t need to fill out its immediate roster with young talent, as they have plenty of that.

Free Agency/Contract Extensions: C

The only signing of the summer for the Grizzlies is Derrick Rose, who was not part of the Knicks rotation last year. He won’t be someone they can rely on for real minutes and also isn’t a veteran with significant deep playoff experience they can lean on. For a vet minimum it’s not a damaging signing, but it also isn’t one that moves the needle for a team with the lofty aspirations the Grizzlies have.

Trades: A-

Where the Grizzlies did most of their work this offseason is in the trade market, where they acquired Smart in the reshaped three-team deal between the Wizards and Celtics that saw Tyus Jones get sent to Washington and their 2023 and 2024 first round picks to Boston. Jones was the steady-handed backup for Morant and he’ll be missed, particularly for that first 25 games without Morant when they’ll be a bit thin at point guard. However, Jones was hopeful to eventually get a starting job somewhere (or at least be paid as such) and it was always going to be difficult for Memphis to commit that much money to him — and certainly the role he wanted was never going to be there for him. As such, they move him for the exact kind of veteran they need on this team. Smart has considerable playoff experience, is extremely willing to call folks out for not playing the right way, and is a tone-setter on the defensive end. He will raise their playoff ceiling immediately, can run the point in Morant’s absence, and is a nice fit between Morant and Bane when their All-Star returns from suspension. He will provide, at worst, the same caliber defense as Brooks (some would argue he’s even better on that end) while being a more useful offensive player, even without being a real upgrade as a shooter. Smart is a very good facilitator and knows how to be a connective piece between stars in a way Brooks wasn’t, which should be helpful for a Memphis offense that can get a touch disjointed.

While a pair of first round picks plus Jones seems like a high price, the picks were the No. 25 pick this year and likely a similar pick next year, while Jones may have been on his way out in the near future anyway. The window for Memphis is now, and they needed to add a veteran to this group that would fill that Brooks role and elevate that spot in the starting lineup. Smart fits the bill and is a worthy use of those picks, and now we’ll just wait to see how it all comes together once the Grizzlies are at full strength come December.