The Celtics are in a precarious situation this offseason. In order to compete for a championship, the team needs to add talent. However, the team’s financial situation won’t let that happen.
With the bulk of free agency come and gone, Boston now turns its attention to Marcus Smart.
Smart has one season left on his contract before becoming an unrestricted free agent next offseason. So, the Celtics need to address his situation now before he walks for nothing. They either need to trade him, which has reportedly been thought about, or extend his contract, which also has supporting reports.
Recently the side of extending Smart has gained momentum. The Celtics offered Smart a four-year deal worth $17 million per year, according to Mark Murphy. That is the annual number Smart has been looking for, so it seems like the two sides will agree to a new contract sooner rather than later.
The question is no longer “Should the Celtics extend Smart?” because it seems like they already made that decision. Now it becomes “How does this extension impact Boston’s future?”
From a basketball standpoint, the extension makes sense. Smart fills two needs the Celtics have; defense and distributing. Boston is lackluster on the defensive side of the ball, especially at the guard position, without Smart. If the C’s traded him away, they would essentially have no lock-down on-ball defender. Keeping Smart helps immensely in that category.
Smart also helps offensively as a solid ball handler, playmaker and distributor. Sometimes he bogs down the offense by trying to do too much and forcing up bad shots. However, the majority of the time his offense is a plus, not a minus.
From a financial standpoint, extending Smart makes things a lot stickier for the Celtics in the future. The whole point of this offseason was to clear contracts and wait until next year. Then you will have enough room to offer a max contract.
Right now, Boston only has three guaranteed contracts on the books next offseason with Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford. If the Celtics extend Smart, they will then have four, which will make it nearly impossible to have a max contract slot. If they did use their available money on one big free agent, it would destroy the team’s ability to sign role players.
So, the moral of the story is: extending Smart is fine, but that cannot be the end of it. He will help the team, he is a fan favorite, but giving him a big contract will ruin their master plan.
The easiest answer to fix the situation would be to move Horford. However, that is easier said than done. Few teams would take on Horford’s horrible contract without sending back another crappy contract. If they did take it, the Celtics would have to pair it with assets or draft picks, like they did with offloading Kemba Walker.
Extending Smart is a good move right now, but Brad Stevens hopefully is looking ahead and understands how it impacts the team down the line.