We’re two weeks out from the February 10 trade deadline, and Boston Celtics fans find themselves in a Ross and Rachel Scenario, asking “will they or won’t they” on a daily basis.
Of course, we’re talking about the Celtics front office pulling the trigger on potential trades and choosing a path for the remainder of the season. As currently constructed, the Celtics are too talented to embrace developmental minutes for the rest of the season but not talented enough to be considered championship contenders. As such, the team and its fans are in limbo.
According to Bleacher Report’s Andy Bailey, Marcus Smart could be the surprise name to be heading for the exit door, should the Celtics finally choose a lane and agree to a trade.
“Marcus Smart has never experienced the life of a “primary offensive option” in the NBA. He’s spent his career taking on difficult defensive assignments, moving the ball and taking threes. Given his career 31.9 three-point percentage, some of those shots feel wildly ill-advised, but Smart brings enough intangibles to make up for that.
And if he’s replacing Jordan Clarkson, whose own penchant for taking wild shots is legendary, the difference in offense might not be as severe as what Utah would experience if Grant was suddenly in Bogdanovic’s role,” Bailey wrote.
It’s worth noting that former Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge now has a front-office role with the Utah Jazz, which could potentially smooth the path to a potential deal, should the returning assets be deemed satisfactory by Ainge’s predecessor Brad Stevens.
Clock Is Ticking For Celtics
Smart’s name has been linked to potential trades for the past few years, with many seeing him as a highly impactful player on a reasonable contract. However, Smart signed a four-year $76.5 million contract extension over the summer, which will come into effect next season.
“If a contender seeking a defensive upgrade is willing to send Boston a first-round pick for Smart, the team has to at least consider what might come next. If the Celtics believe their next splurge might hone in on a playmaker, then collecting a draft asset that might aid that quest might take some of the sting out of moving Smart,” NBC Sports Boston’s Chris Forsberg wrote in a recent article.
Smart has been and continues to be one of the Celtics’ most vocal leaders – both on the court and in the locker room. However, despite the veteran combo guard’s defensive prowess, it’s becoming increasingly clear that his best role is as a sixth man rather than a starting guard.
Herein lies the conundrum. For all of Smart’s flaws, he’s one of the best defensive guards in the NBA, is a willing passer that has shown vast improvement this season, and fights for his team on every possession. Yet the Texas native’s offensive output is limited, so it’s difficult to pinpoint his true value to a Celtics team currently mired in mediocrity, especially when his elite-level skill is incredibly attractive to contending teams in need of a defensive boost.
Therefore, any interested team would likely be looking to add Smart as a defensive partner for an elite offensive player to help propel them into contender status, which makes sense considering he’s currently linked with the Utah Jazz, Atlanta Hawks, and Dallas Mavericks.
Celtics Precarious Point Guard Position
Boston has a wealth of talent throughout their roster, most notably on the wing, where Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown provide their All-Star-level talent. The center position is well stocked and boasts impressive rim runner Robert Williams Al Horford and Enes Freedom. And we can’t forget about young talents such as Romeo Langford, Aaron Nesmith, and even Bruno Fernando.
Yet, the point guard position is far more tentative. Outside of Smart, Boston has Dennis Schroder tied down for the remainder of this season and sophomore Payton Pritchard waiting in the wings. However, if the Celtics were to trade Smart and not receive a true point-guard in return, they could be left with an unbalanced roster.
There’s a genuine risk that should the Celtics trade Smart and Schroder leave in free agency, Boston will be left scrambling for a starting-level point guard during the summer, with little by way of tradeable assets or cap room to sign free agents.
Stevens will be aware of such risks and undoubtedly have a contingency plan in place, should that unwanted outcome ever materialize. Still, with Smart’s specific skill set, and the Celtics in clear need of fresh faces, it makes sense to see his name linked in potential trades. Whether or not those trades become a reality is something we’re going to find out over the coming two weeks.