Marcus Smart is widely perceived as the heart and soul of the Boston Celtics team. However, when that team — who entered the season with title aspirations — sits one game below .500 43 games into the season, that isn’t exactly enough to make you indispensable.
The Athletic recently reported that Smart has drawn interest from the Atlanta Hawks, likely as part of a John Collins package. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst has further added fuel to speculation that Smart could be moved, noting that the Celtics have been willing to discuss the 27-year-old, potentially in an Aaron Gordon trade.
When asked if the team should give up Smart in a deal that would yield Boston the services of Gordon, Kendrick Perkins, one of Smart’s more vocal supporters, surprised some with his take.
ALL the latest Celtics news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Celtics newsletter here!
Perkins: Gordon Can Take Pressure Off Brown & Tatum
“The Celtics are in a bad spot right now and when you have a chance to get better and upgrade you have to look at all possibilities,” Perkins said, joining ESPN’s The Jump. “When you look at Aaron Gordon, he’s shooting 40% from the three, 6-foot-9, athletic, can play well without the ball, a slasher to the basket.”
On the season, Gordon is averaging 14.7 points, thanks in large part to him shooting a career-best 39.3% from beyond the arc. While his 3-point percentage may be a near 10% jump from the season prior, it’s not the only facet of his game that he’s developed upon. Gordon continues to thrive as a distributor in 2020-21, as his 4.3 assists per game are tied for tops amongst all Magic players.
With that said, it’s Gordon’s versatility on the defensive end that appears to excite Perkins the most.
“And by the way, come postseason time, if the Celtics make the playoffs, he is a guy that you could take a lot of pressure off of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum and put on a guy like Giannis or put on a guy like Kevin Durant,” Perkins stated. “So, if you’re Danny Ainge you’ve got to look for improvement. Right now the Celtics are sitting at the eighth seed, one game below .500. Something’s got to shape.”
Perkins: Sometimes You’ve Got to Make Those Tough Decisions
Moving off Smart won’t be an easy decision and will likely receive its fair share of pushback from teammates and fans should Danny Ainge actually pull the trigger.
We’re all aware of his defensive prowess, as Smart has earned back-to-back All-Defensive First Team nods. Yet, he’s also a vastly underappreciated playmaker, averaging a career-best 5.4 assists per game this season. His presence was sorely missed when a calf injury forced him out of the lineup for six weeks earlier this year, as the team split their 18 games without Smart down the middle.
However, it’s not as if the Cs have seen their on-court play take a massive leap forward with Smart’s reinsertion back into the lineup. Since returning from his injury, the Celtics own a record of just 2-5. With just one year remaining on his deal, and the upside that Gordon presents on both ends of the court, Perkins believes the team may have a tough decision on their hands.
“Marcus Smart, he has one year left on his deal. You’ve got Aaron Gordon who has two years left on his deal, and I believe is only 25 years of age. And right now that position, that height, that athleticism, you can’t find that everywhere,” Perkins said.
“I wouldn’t be saying this if the Celtics were a top-five team, but one game below .500, right now they have not lived up to expectations,” he noted. “I know the way the Boston Celtics fans feel, the organization, it’s not just about making the playoffs with them. With these two superstars, they feel like they need to be making it to the promised land and sometimes you’ve got to make those tough decisions and see how it pans out.”