Lakers Should Target $76 Million Defensive Star in Trade Amid Rival’s Injuries

LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

Getty LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Los Angeles Lakers want to lean into their defensive identity.

That was part of Head Coach Darvin Ham’s reasoning for changing the starting lineup to include LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and three switchable wings, namely Taurean Prince, Cam Reddish, and Jarred Vanderbilt, though he has since been replaced by Austin Reaves.

Reaves has played better as the season has worn on. But the Lakers’ defense can reach even higher levels with a player like Memphis Grizzlies star Marcus Smart.

Smart, 29, was the Defensive Player of the Year in 2021-22 and is a three-time All-Defensive selection, all of which came during his nine seasons with the Boston Celtics. Boston traded him to Memphis this offseason in a three-team blockbuster trade that also included the Washington Wizards.

The 6-foot-4 Smart is averaging 14.5 points, 4.3 assists, and 2.7 rebounds this season.

His new team, the Grizzlies, are 14-23, sitting 13th in the Western Conference standings, and have already lost star point guard Ja Morant for the rest of the season to a shoulder injury.

In the second year of a four-year, $76.5 million contract, Smart is shooting 31.3% from beyond the arc. And he is a career-32.3% shooter from long distance. So he won’t do much if anything for the Lakers’ floor-spacing concerns. But his impact is evident whenever he is on the floor

Memphis has a minus-2.7 net efficiency differential with Smart on the floor, per Cleaning The Glass. That is not good. But the number drops to minus-6.7 when he is on the bench.

Marcus Smart Injury Presents Roadblock

The Grizzlies will be without Smart for some time following the announcement of a finger injury that will shelf him. That could also put a wrench in any potential suitors’ plans ahead of the trade deadline on February 8.

“Memphis Grizzlies guard Marcus Smart has sustained a severe right ring finger injury and will be sidelined for approximately six weeks,” reported The Athletic and Stadium’s Shams Charania in a post on X, formerly Twitter, on January 11. “Another difficult injury blow in season for the Grizzlies.”

The Grizzlies were just 7-13 with Smart.

But going 7-10 without him to this point doesn’t inspire much confidence they will be able to pull out of their tailspin despite winning four of their last five games.

The Lakers are taking a patient approach to making any trades after overhauling their roster around the deadline just last season. So Smart’s injury could work to their benefit if it keeps his cost from going up and allows them to further evaluate what they already have.

Proposed Trade Lands Grizzlies’ Marcus Smart on Lakers

If they get closer to the deadline and feel like he could provide them with a needed boost, this hypothetical trade option could be worth exploring.

Lakers get:

– Marcus Smart

Grizzlies get:

Gabe Vincent
Jalen Hood-Schifino
– Future first-round pick or swap

The pick in this scenario is just a placeholder.

The Lakers can trade one or both of their first-round picks in 2029 and 2031 (the latter once the 2024 draft rolls around) or 2030. If they trade one or both the ‘29 and ‘31 picks, they do have the ability to add a swap option for the selection in 2030 and vice versa.

Unfortunately for them, D’Angelo Russell’s trade value isn’t what they hoped it would be when they re-signed him on a two-year, $36 million contract this offseason.

They will have to surrender more valuable assets if they truly want to make any upgrades.

Vicent – sidelined for a similar window as Smart but with a knee injury – isn’t that on his own. But he could be enticing enough still based on his performance in last year’s postseason to make the inclusion of a protected pick and this past draft’s No. 17 overall pick, Hood-Schifino, enough to get a deal done with Memphis.