Offering Marcus Smart Should Bring West Team to Trade Table, Says Insider

Marcus Smart could intrigue Blazers in CJ McCollum trade offer

Getty Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics looks for an open teammate against the Philadelphia 76ers.

As we’re all well aware of at this point, Damian Lillard’s tenure in Portland appears to be on rocky ground. While he has yet to request a trade, Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes reported it’s extremely plausible that the six-time All-Star will do so at some point in the near future. With that said, the Trail Blazers would seemingly prefer to keep Lillard — and rightfully so. Chances are Chauncey Billups feels similar, as he likely didn’t take the head coach job in Portland with the preference of coaching a Blazers team sans Lillard.

Yet, if Lillard stays put, it may lead to his backcourt mate CJ McCollum being pushed aside. As Haynes noted, Lillard isn’t exactly sold on Portland’s ability to build a contender. And while dealing away a player who has averaged nearly 22.0 points per game since 2015 may seem like a step backward, moving off McCollum’s $100 million owed over the next three years would give the Blazers flexibility moving forward.

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‘Framework Could Work’ for Celtics to Pursue McCollum

If Portland does ultimately choose to go the route of dangling McCollum, The Athletic’s Jared Weiss believes the Boston Celtics have the capital to at least bring the Blazers to the trade table.

“Including Marcus Smart in a deal should at least bring Blazers general manager Neil Olshey to the table,” Weiss wrote. “He [Olshey] could view Smart as the key to improving one of the league’s worst defenses last season. Smart is coming off a relatively down defensive season, though that could be because he had to devote time to telling new guys where to go as they were struggling to figure out coverages. If Olshey thinks Anfernee Simons is ready to take on a major rotation role after a season in which his growth as an on-ball player stunted, this framework could work.”

McCollum Holds Negative Trade Value?

Apparently so. The Athletic’s John Hollinger recently noted that while McCollum is a “plus starter,” the majority of the league sees him holding a “slightly negative value” due to his current contract ($30.86 million in 2021-22). Then again, we heard similar rumblings regarding Kemba Walker not too long ago, and he was just unloaded for Al Horford and Moses Brown — not an otherworldly return, but also not a “negative” return.

Speaking of the Walker deal, moving off of the veteran point guard has given the team more financial flexibility. However, it’s also left a glaring hole in the team’s starting lineup. The most logical solution to fill the void would be to simply insert Smart into the role. The seven-year veteran flashed an improved skillset as a distributor last season, averaging a career-high 5.7 assists. Yet, with a contract decision looming, some within NBA circles believe the team would be better off to shop the 27-year-old — with many connecting the dots to Portland.

“For the first time, I believe the likelihood of McCollum being traded this summer is probable, if not certain,” wrote The Athletic’s Jason Quick. “I’ve also heard Boston could be interested in a player like McCollum, and I’ve always thought Marcus Smart and his defense would be a great pairing in Portland (obviously it would take more to make salaries match, but Smart would be a great start).”

While Lillard has dominated the ball throughout the majority of McCollum’s tenure in Portland, Weiss believes the latter could thrive in a point guard role with the Celtics.

“The pros with McCollum are fairly straightforward. He can fulfill the role Walker was excelling in up until his knee injury in February 2020, essentially functioning at the point alongside two notably improved playmakers at the wings in Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum,” Weiss said. “He is well-composed running the pick-and-roll and coming over a screen to find his shot or make a good pass. In many ways, he is a more potent version of Evan Fournier on offense and so his fit should be great.”

While a broken foot limited McCollum to 47 games a season ago, he still managed to average 23.1 points and 4.7 assists per game. His 40.2% shooting percentage from 3-point range was the third-best mark of his eight-year career.

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