We’re not even a full month removed from their final game, yet the Boston Celtics find themselves firmly engulfed in trade hypotheticals.
Can the Cs move Kemba Walker’s contract? Is Jaylen Brown truly untouchable? Will hiring Jason Kidd lure Damian Lillard to Beantown? Is Kristaps Porzingis worth taking a gamble on? These are just some of the questions fans and media are figuratively placing upon new president of basketball operations, Brad Stevens.
The fact of the matter is, the former head coach will have his fair share of tough decisions to make as it pertains to a roster that could bolster the highest tax bill in franchise history (h/t Mass Live’s Brian Robb), yet mustered up a mere .500-record on the season. One of those looming decisions involves the team’s longest-tenured player, Marcus Smart.
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Is Marcus Smart Boston’s Best Trade Chip?
Boneheaded shot selections aside, Smart has firmly entrenched himself as the heart and soul of the Celtics’ roster since being selected No. 6 overall in 2014. A two-time NBA All-Defense first-team selection with a budding skillset as a distributor (career-high 5.7 assists in 2020-21), there’s no surprise the voice of Celtics basketball, Sean Grande, grouped Smart into the team’s “core four” alongside Tatum, Brown and Walker.
However, when your core four can’t get you out of the first round of the playoffs, let alone finish the regular season higher than the seventh-seed in the East, chances are you’ll be looking to swap out a few of those integral pieces. According to Bleacher Report’s Dan Favale, moving on from Smart is likely Boston’s best bet of reaping a favorable return on the trade market, potentially even serving as a primary trade chip in a blockbuster deal.
“Nobody else on the roster registers as a potential blockbuster chip. Smart comes closest,” Favale wrote. “He remains a dogged defender, and though his offensive escapades at times double as self-sabotage, his willingness to let ‘er rip from deep, including off the dribble, is an asset. He is also downing a good-not-great 34.8 percent of his triples over the past three years.”
Smart’s Impending Free Agency May ‘Force’ Boston’s Hand
Smart, 27, remains under contract with the Celtics through the end of next season. However, the Texas native will be eligible for a contract extension that would check in north of $17 million for the 2022-23 season — a price point that holds uncertainty from both the team and Smart’s long-term point of view.
“Boston shouldn’t want to move him [Smart]. But his free agency might force its hand,” Favale noted. “He will hit the open market in 2022, and it isn’t clear whether he makes enough to accept an earlier deal. The Celtics can start him at around $17.2 million in 2022-23 if they extend him. He might command more. Or they may not want to pay a non-star that much.”