Marcus Smart’s unintentional promotion was inevitable when the Boston Celtics dealt the 10th-year veteran to the Memphis Grizzlies in the offseason.

The early-season woes, however, weren’t as foreseeable.

Through five games, Smart’s already been handed a scolding hot potato. The Grizzlies, while looking to keep their ship from sinking just long enough until Ja Morant is back from suspension (25 games), look like a lost cause. Smart’s defensive efforts, his strongest attribute, haven’t been as contagious as expected. Instead, keeping opponents off the scoreboard has quickly become one of Memphis’ greatest weaknesses — and it’s only grown to become uglier.

The Grizzlies are the 10th-youngest team in the NBA with the roster age range averaging just over 25 years old, therefore, it’s not unheard of for the consequences of inexperience to kick in. Or in their case, dropkick in.

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“For me, as a young guy coming in, you don’t know much,” Smart explained on the “Just Grizzlies” podcast. “You’re just trying to go out there and show that you’re here, you can compete. Forget about everything else, you don’t really know the game yet, you don’t really know the certain feel of how the game should go. You’re just out there. As you get older, you get more experience, more playing time, you start to figure out certain things you can do, certain things you can’t do.”

Smart, if anyone on the 2023-24 Memphis roster, understands the reality of young up-and-comers dog days.

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Entering the league in 2014 as the sixth overall draft pick to Boston, Smart partook in the worst basketball played of his career. There was no star or head honcho to lead the team’s post-Big Three chapter, and instead, the Celtics were dragged to working their way out of being of the Eastern Conference’s punching bags.

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That’s a much harsher reality than the position Memphis is currently in.

The Western Conference is open for grabs and while the Grizzlies can’t control what Morant decides to do on Instagram Live, they can find ways to limit the scoring damage dealt to them on a night-to-night basis. Memphis dropped to a league-worst 0-5 after letting the Jazz go off for 133 points in a cakewalk victory Wednesday night. That made for the fifth straight game in which Memphis’ opponent scored over 100 while shooting over 43%.

Not just bad, but putrid for a Smart-led defense, much less a team positioned to make a convincing run at the NBA Finals.

The Grizzlies have the ninth-worst defensive rating (113.7), fresh off finishing as the third-best defensive team in the NBA last season — without Smart.

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Smart, who was named NBA Defensive Player of the Year just two seasons ago, hasn’t been himself at the start either. Perhaps chalked up to playing outside of Boston for the first time with the most offensive possessions as the Grizzlies’ go-to ball-handler, but the potential match made in heaven has been anything but so far.

Memphis also has 24-year-old Jarren Jackson Jr., who like Smart, was named Defensive Player of the Year last season.

Early? Absolutely. Too early for concern? That’s a discussion on thin ice.

Featured image via Rob Gray/USA TODAY Sports Images