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Celtics Shore Up their Future by Extending Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY SA-2.0

Celtics Shore Up their Future by Extending Marcus Smart

Estimated Reading Time: 4 Minutes

Hot off all the Kawhi Leonard news going around, the Boston Celtics announced on Thursday that they had resigned Marcus  to a $52 million deal over 4 years.  The number 6 overall pick in the 2014 draft averaged 10 points, 5 assists, and 1 steal per game in the 2017-2018 season.

High Praises from the Celtics

After striking out on larger name free agents that they had hoped to bring in this summer, the Celtics were quick to get Smart resigned on a new deal that will lock him in for a few years.  And the fact that they offered him this new deal shows how much they think of Smart.  Having sat through a slower-than-expected market in his year of restricted free agency, the Celtics likely could have retained Smart for another year on a qualifying offer a little over $6 million.

Instead, they chose to engage with him and ended up more than doubling for next year what his qualifying offer would have been, locking him in as a Celtic (or a trade asset) for the foreseeable future.

What are they getting back?

Smart has been a fan favorite for the past couple of years in Boston.  Though he boasts a rather dismal 36% overall shooting percentage for his career (and just 29% from behind the arc), he has never been asked to contribute extensively on the offensive end.

What fans and management alike rave about is the tenacity he brings on the defensive end and overall ferocious attitude he approaches the game with.  There isn’t a loose ball he won’t dive on, a rebound he won’t battle for, nor a ball handler he won’t get in the shorts of.  And at 6’4″ and rather stout 220 lbs, he is equipped with the tools to take on any assignment.

In fact, he will often take on multiple roles through the course of even a single possession.  Chasing shooters off screens.  Banging with larger guards and forwards in the post.  Jumping the passing and driving lanes to create turnovers.  You name it, and Smart has the defensive skill in his bag.

And even with all the questions about whether he can improve his shooting, the Celtics have been a noticeably better team with him on the floor, even offensively. His ability to handle the ball and beat his defender often gives Boston a secondary play-maker on the floor with Kyrie Irving or Terry Rozier.  And with Gordon Hayward returning and Jayson Tatum appearing to be a polished go-to scorer already, the Celtics could have substantially more firepower than last year.  Having a player like Smart that is willing and capable to fill in the holes is going to be an important asset.

What the Future Could Hold

The Celtics are happy to have Smart back for a number of reasons (mainly, beyond those mentioned, having a hole in the roster due to whiffing on the likes of LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, and DeMarcus Cousins).  But that doesn’t mean the Celtics team is locked in for the season.

Danny Ainge has never been shy about tossing his hat into the trade discussions, and the situation that Celtics are in presents them options to play with.

Kyrie Irving has acknowledged that he has little reason to re-sign with Boston before his contract is up.  He will have plenty of suitors and will make more money signing a new deal.  Knowing this, there is every reason to believe that Ainge will be looking for and listening to possible trade partners.  A player with Irving’s offensive skills is rare, and the Celtics would be unlikely to acquire a player who provided even a fraction of his production.  But gaining a solid player willing to sign on as a part of their core going forward would be an “I’m listening” at worst.

After missing their star in Free Agency, could they trade for one?

In Minnesota, Jimmy Butler has made his discontent clear, and he declined an extension with Timberwolves earlier this month.  Knowing this, could Ainge finagle a deal that could bring Butler to Boston at a reasonable price?  It seems possible, as the Celtics are flush with assets and the Timberwolves uninterested in letting Butler walk for nothing in 2019.  The suitors for Butler, especially contenders, will come flocking near the trade deadline if he hasn’t been dealt, and it would be surprise not to hear the Celtics’ name in that discussion.

If they were to pull that off, the Celtics rotation would be Irving, Butler, Hayward, Al Horford, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier, and Jaylen Brown, minus whichever players they lose to bring in Butler.

And if they manage to do this without losing Irving, Tatum, Hayward, or Horford?

Then it will be a good time to re-evaluate the formality of a Golden State three-peat in 2019.

Indianapolis born and bred, with love dispersed in uneven and shifting portions between the Indiana Pacers, Indianapolis Colts, and Atlanta Braves. Believer and ambassador of the phrase "Don't Be a Hero." Often wish I had never gotten into sports while simultaneously proclaiming sports is the greatest thing in life--it doesn't have to make sense but it's true.

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