After running in neutral for much of the first half of the season, the Boston Celtics appear to be headed in the right direction as we approach the All-Star break — and Marcus Smart’s resurgent play has plenty to do with that. The 27-year-old has strung together arguably the best span of his NBA career since returning to the C’s lineup on January 23. Over his last seven games, Smart has averaged 11 points, 6.6 assists and 3.7 rebounds leading Boston to a 6-1 record during that period.
To some, Smart’s recent surge has fans convinced the point guard will continue to don green and white past the February 10 deadline. To others, they perceive it as Smart boosting his trade value at the perfect time.
It’s been widely reported over recent weeks that Boston has engaged in trade discussions with numerous teams revolving around Smart’s availability. The Minnesota Timberwolves are believed to be eying the defensive stalwart as a replacement for Patrick Beverley in their starting lineup, per Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer. The Atlanta Hawks are another team that has been readily linked to a Smart trade. And should Atlanta happen to offer up the services of John Collins in a package, Mass Live’s Brian Robb believes Brad Stevens would be foolish not to pounce.
“Absolutely,” Robb wrote in his Boston Celtics Mailbag column when asked if he’d flip Smart for Collins. “Smart has been great since his return but Collins is a dream complement to Tatum and Brown at power forward from an offensive standpoint. He’s a shooter and lob threat that you can’t help off of.”
Smart-Collins Talks Won’t Go Away
Collins being floated as a fit in Boston and Smart being a potential complement to Trae Young in Atlanta’s backcourt is nothing new. The hypothetical trade-off has been tossed around on numerous occasions. In fact, Bleacher Report’s Grant Hughes predicted on February 3 that the deal will actually come to fruition prior to this year’s deadline:
John Collins seems unhappy with his role again (and therefore possibly available), and Atlanta could take on additional money Boston doesn’t want to get the deal done. Throw Josh Richardson into this trade, and Boston would get the $2.8 million in salary relief it needs to duck the luxury tax. Collins was a major force in Atlanta’s surge to the Eastern Conference Finals last year, and Smart has factored into three playoff runs of that depth in Boston. Yet both may have reached the end of the line with their respective teams.
While Atlanta gets the specific skill set it needs, the Celtics add the younger, brighter star.
The ‘Dream Complement’?
Collins, 24, is in the midst of yet another productive season for the Hawks. Continuing to cement himself as one of the league’s premier stretch fours, Collins is connecting on at least 39.7% of his 3-point attempts for the third consecutive year. However, since inking a five-year, $125 million contract back in August, Collins has grown steadily displeased with his role in Atlanta which has led to a dip in his point output for the second consecutive season.
“Collins, however, has grown increasingly frustrated over his role in Atlanta, multiple sources have told The Athletic… The 6-foot-9 big man has challenged the Hawks locker room on multiple occasions to play team basketball and commit to one another this season. Oftentimes, Collins has felt his voice go unheard,” wrote NBA insider Shams on January 10.
Acquiring Collins would undoubtedly be a homerun addition for the Celtics. Especially in this scenario, where the team would be luring a third star player to Beantown without surrendering Jaylen Brown in a trade. Yet, one has to wonder to what detrimental extent would losing a leader like Smart serve to the Cs, both on the court and off it.
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