More Celtics Trades Expected After Brad Stevens’ Marcus Smart Bombshell

Marcus Smart (left) is out, traded by the Celtics for Kristaps Porzingis (right).

Getty Marcus Smart (left) is out, traded by the Celtics for Kristaps Porzingis (right).

Nine thoughts as we await corollary moves by the Celtics

— As much as we feel a need to make assessments in the wake of the Marcus Smart/Kristaps Porzingis/and-don’t-forget-the-draft-picks trade, there is the strong belief around the NBA that Brad Stevens isn’t done reshaping the roster. Further deals could render some of these points moot.

So please read fast.

— Getting to the bottom line early, in terms of cold, hard, on-paper facts, the Celtics came out ahead on this trade. But the truth is the deal can’t be properly judged for Boston until it’s seen how many games Porzingis can play and what effect Smart’s loss has on the Celts’ identity. The latter component wasn’t enough to keep the club from self-inflicted eliminations, but we’ll see how the C’s run without his fuel.

— I’ve written a number of times over recent years how much Smart is coveted around the league for his intangibles as well as the more quantifiable aspects of his game. Just watch what the Grizzles say about him when this gets done.

And while many decried Smart’s occasional “shoot (3s) first and ask questions later” moments (coach Stevens, who favored a more controlled chaos, was sometimes in his group) he was a far better point guard than credited. Picture the Celtic offense at its flustered worst and it’s rare you’ll find Smart out front directing traffic. I was stunned at how much he was off the ball in Game 7 versus Miami, but it’s hard to pinpoint a cause of that mess when the Celts devolved so embarrassingly after Jayson Tatum’s injury.

Assists can admittedly be a tricky stat because it requires someone else making a shot, but the Celtics 11-1 in the regular season when Smart had nine or more dishes. (The numbers don’t line up as well in the playoffs when the club started showing team-wide cracks against Atlanta, Philadelphia and, ultimately, Miami.)

Malcolm Brogdon’s Health Still an Issue

— Malcolm Brogdon’s health was an issue when the Celtics acquired him, and they managed to get him through the season pretty well after his previous  problems with his Achilles, hamstring, etc. But it’s an even bigger issue now, with Smart gone and the uncertainty around the torn tendon in Brogdon’s right elbow.

It’s amazing how fans on talk shows and social media were so gleeful when he was on his way to the Clippers as part of the deal — almost as if the last scenes of him injured and ineffective against Miami erased their memory of all that had come prior.

But it is fact that Brogdon was the guy who allowed the Celts’ bench depth to work, scoring and finding others. And his experience and poise was also key in some late-game situations. Those who thought Boston would have won the 2022 title if he’d gotten there a year earlier got support for their opinion.

If he remains and the elbow problem persists in some limiting fashion, the Celtics’ too many guards could quickly become too few.

— Maybe losing Smart will force others to get bolder on defense and in loose ball situations. No longer will they be able to rely on Marcus to rip the ball out of James Harden’s hands or otherwise make the kind of Lawrence Taylor-esque play that alters a game’s momentum.

The Celtics certainly have guys who’ve done these things and are capable, but this feels a little like the 1960s divorced dad pausing as he walks out to say, “You’re the man of the house now.”

Timing Was Potentially Golden for Jaylen Brown

— The timing of this trade was worth millions to Jaylen Brown. Being a small forward was a key factor to him making the All-NBA team and becoming eligible for the supermax contract extension. All agree that it would have been far more difficult for him to attain one of the six backcourt positions on the three squads, and the Celtics campaigned hard to remind voters that, with Robert Williams missing the first 29 games and Joe Mazzulla generally staying away from the double-big lineup, Brown was, indeed, primarily a 3-man.

If all the bigs are available, it’s hard to imagine any two of the Al Horford-Rob-Porzingis troika on the bench at the same time, except in certain small-ball matchup situations. That makes Brown a guard again, which should actually give him and the Celtics advantages on both ends of the floor as it has before.

— NBA sources we’ve spoken to have been harping on the need for Tatum and Brown to improve at creating opportunities for each other. And while it’s true that their positions make Nikola Jokic-Jamal Murray comparisons unfair, the Celt pair SHOULD be better at taking advantage of the defensive attention each receives and burning the opponent with killer feeds. Horford could do some of those Jokic-Murray actions, but Porzingis, with his ability to pick, pop and shoot over just about anyone (and upgraded moves to the hoop), will create more possibilities along these lines.

— How many remember when Smart gave up about a foot and guarded Porzingis in New York? And did so successfully. Porzingis’ game is much more versatile now, but that was some of the earliest evidence of Smart’s toughness.

— The Grizzlies began a seven-year playoff run a dozen years ago when they acquired Celtic free agent Tony Allen, who became a folk hero in Memphis with his “grit and grind” mantra. (The Grizz’ arena became known as the Grindhouse.)

One team source tells Heavy Sports there are higher expectations for the Celtic sequel.


Read More