The Boston Celtics‘ revamped backcourt could theoretically include CJ McCollum one day. The Portland Trail Blazers sharpshooter has been long-rumored as a target for the Cs — however, that’s for another time. For the immediate future, Boston has settled on a trio of Marcus Smart, Dennis Schroder and Josh Richardson to replace the departed Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier.
All five of those players have gotten new contracts this summer. Yet, it’s Smart and Schroder’s deals, in particular, that have garnered the most criticism. However, McCollum expects both players to quiet their doubters this season.
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McCollum: Smart ‘Would’ve Been Great’ for Blazers
Handing nearly $80 million to a player with a history of spotty shot selection and limited run as a lead-guard has left some questioning Boston’s financial commitment to Smart — but don’t lump McCollum into that group. On his “Pull Up” podcast, the NBPA president praised both the Celtics and Smart for their decision to forge on with their relationship.
“At $77 million over four [years], I think it’s a great deal for Boston,” McCollum said. “I also think it’s a good move for Smart because you never know what’s going to happen in this league, it’s very fickle. You could be here today, gone tomorrow — I think he made the right decision.”
Smart, 27, is coming off a career campaign offensively where he notched personal bests in points (13.1 per game), assists (5.7 per game) and offensive rating (114.2). Combine Smart’s budding offensive game with his already dominant defensive chops, and McCollum believes the former No. 6 overall pick would have been an ideal addition to nearly any NBA roster, the Blazers included.
“I like Marcus Smart a lot,” McCollum noted. “I think he would’ve been great for the Portland Trail Blazers. He would’ve been great for a lot of teams because he can shoot 3s, he can guard, he can initiate offense, he does all the little things, and he just wants to win at the end of the day. I think that’s what you need on your roster, guys who will go take charges, who can guard 1 through 5, and will do anything to win.”
McCollum on Schroder: ‘He Knows There’s a Lot at Stake’
While Smart has received criticism for the money he got, Schroder’s backlash stems from the money he left on the table. Whether a formal offer was made has since been brought into question, it appears as if the Los Angeles Lakers were willing to re-up Schroder on an $84 million extension last summer.
Schroder, who was the reigning Sixth-Man of the Year runner-up at the time, opted not to take the deal, hoping to cash in following the season. How much so, might you ask? It was reported that he was seeking a contract worth somewhere between $100-$120 million (per Armin Andres, the VP of the German Basketball Federation). He did not receive that — not even close. After what proved to be an extremely dry market for the 27-year-old, Schroder took a one-year prove-it deal with Boston for just $5.9 million.
“He’s got a lot to prove,” McCollum said of Schroder. “Now he’s probably angry. He’s probably a little frustrated at the situation but also motivated. I think one of the best things about slights or going through struggles or potentially turning down money — similar to what John Collins did (with the Atlanta Hawks) — you come in motivated and you also understand what’s at stake.”
Collins inked a five-year, $125 million contract this offseason with Atlanta. This, after rejecting a $90 million extension last summer, first reported by ESPN’s Brian Windhorst on the “Hoop Collective” podcast. While the likelihood Schroder cashes in on a deal remotely close to Collins’ is slim, the same principles apply after the now-Celtics guard bet on himself.
“He knows there’s a lot at stake for this season. I think his approach, his mindset, his mentality is going to be different going into this year,” McCollum said. “I think this will be a good year for him to show what he’s kind of capable of in Boston. Play alongside some good players and potentially try to earn back some of that money he allegedly turned down.”
Despite what could be categorized as an up-and-down 2020-21 campaign, the German guard still averaged a respectable 15.4 points and 5.8 assists in 61 starts with the Lakers last season. With all signs pointing towards Smart manning the starting point guard role in Boston this year, Schroder may be able to revert back to a sixth-man role similar to the one he manned during his uber-productive run in Oklahoma City. In 2019-20 with the Thunder, Schroder appeared in 65 games (two starts), averaging nearly 19.0 points per game and shooting a career-best 38.5% from beyond the arc.