Before the Atlanta Hawks committed long-term to John Collins this offseason, the Boston Celtics were among the most prominently discussed landing spots for the budding big man. In fact, The Ringer’s reported at last season’s trade deadline that Boston was showing “significant interest” in swinging a deal for the 23-year-old. Of course, no such trade materialized. Collins stayed put in Atlanta and eventually cashed in on his pricey contract desires. However, if you thought the five-year, $125 million deal the Hawks handed Collins was enough to curb future Celtics hypotheticals, think again.
Despite a shiny new deal, Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley cites decreased production, lackluster playoff output and talent overlap in Atlanta’s frontcourt as reasons why the Hawks may look to soon flip their newly-inked big. If they should choose to do so, the B/R columnist envisions a scenario where Brad Stevens and the Celtics could be waiting with open arms.
“If the Hawks opted to trade Collins for better roster balance, the Boston Celtics seem like a reasonable option,” Buckley wrote. “They’re in the market for a No. 3 scorer and could send back Marcus Smart and draft picks, prospects or both in return.”
Hawks Had Interest in Smart, But Don’t Expect the C’s to Bite
There’s no denying Buckley’s take has some ammo behind it. Not only did the C’s reportedly snoop around Collins at the deadline last season, but the Hawks showed similar interest in swinging a deal for Smart, per
“Everything the Celtics do now is through the lens of Tatum and Brown as pillars,” wrote NBC Sports Boston’s Chris Forsberg. “That’s obvious. But Smart is undeniably the conscience of the team. He’s the heart and soul. We find it hard to envision a Celtics team without Smart given his presence for nearly the entirety of the Stevens era. Even as Tatum and Brown take on more responsibility and grow as leaders, it’s not the worst thing to have Smart there to help guide and advise them.”
Smart Ready to Prove His Worth?
Collins wasn’t the only player to be handed a new contract this offseason. The Celtics locked up Smart on a four-year, $77 million contract extension in August. The deal, which could keep the former No. 6 overall pick in Beantown through 2026, essentially crowns Smart as the heir apparent to the departed Kemba Walker at point guard. All signs out of Boston this offseason have backed that claim, as new head coach Ime Udoka has been vocal in his desire to put the ball in Smart’s hands more often in 2021.
“Marcus hasn’t always been the starting point guard or a guy who’s had the ball in his hands a ton, and he’s yearning for that. So we’ll entrust in him to have more responsibility on his hands,” said Udoka on WEEI’s “Gresh & Keefe” show.
Most known for his defensive prowess, the 27-year-old two-time All-Defensive first-teamer put up career numbers offensively in 2020-21. In 48 games (45 starts), he averaged personal bests in points (13.1), assists (5.7) and offensive rating (114.2). Boston will look for Smart to improve upon those numbers this coming season as they hand him more reigns to their offense.