You could make an argument that no two teams have been linked as potential trade partners as much as the Boston Celtics and Portland Trail Blazers have been over recent weeks. Whether it’s rumors of Damian Lillard potentially pushing his way out of Oregon, or the Blazers dangling fellow backcourt mate CJ McCollum as trade ammo to better support Lillard, the Celtics continue to be floated as ideal catalysts to help Portland reshape their roster.
As for making a run at Lillard, a case could be made that no other team in the NBA would be able to top a Celtics offer built around 24-year-old All-Star Jaylen Brown. However, as intriguing as it may sound on paper for the Blazers to swap out Lillard for a budding star nearly seven years his youth, chances are they’d prefer to retain their starting point guard if possible — and rightfully so.
If this proves to be the case, their best chance to right the ship when it comes to Lillard is reconfiguring their roster around him to better resemble a championship contender. Yahoo Sports’ Chris Mannix believes that could start with making a move for Celtics veteran and defensive ace, Marcus Smart.
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Mannix: Smart Could ‘Take a Lot of Pressure Off’ Lillard
Mannix recently joined Bill Simmons on The Ringer’s Bill Simmons Podcast where he highlighted Smart as a logical complement to Lillard in the Blazers backcourt and a possible trade chip to bring McCollum to Boston.
“If Portland keeps Lillard — that’s why [CJ] McCollum is intriguing for Boston, because Smart would probably complement Lillard differently at least than McCollum does,” Mannix said. “The biggest problem in Portland is there’s no defensive backstop there. There’s nobody that can guard wings the way Smart can. So you put Smart next to Lillard, you take a lot of pressure off him in that sense. There’s a really good market for Marcus Smart.”
This isn’t the first time a McCollum-Smart swap has been proposed, as The Athletic’s Jason Quick shared a similar thought process to Mannix regarding a possible deal this summer.
“For the first time, I believe the likelihood of McCollum being traded this summer is probable, if not certain,” Quick wrote. “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).”
Gauging Smart’s Trade Value
Funny how things play out. Just one month ago a league source informed Mass Live’s Brian Robb that “getting a late first-round pick for Smart would be a challenge unless Boston took back an unattractive contract as part of the deal.”
Suddenly, Smart is shaping up to the C’s best trade chip, potentially serving as the key cog in a deal to yield a 23.1 points per game scorer in McCollum. And by the look of it, Portland wouldn’t be the lone potential buyers were Boston to shop their longest-tenured player. During the same podcast, Bill Simmons noted he believes “contending teams really value” Smart and that the guard’s current value could likely land the Celtics a pick between No. 7 overall and No. 9 overall in this year’s draft — certainly a far cry from his previously perceived “late first-round pick” value.