Boston Celtics

Boston Celtics

Boston Celtics

Marcus Smart talks with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics during a game. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Brad Stevens made a stunning decision this week to execute a major shakeup to the Boston Celtics’ roster, locker room, and identity, by trading Marcus Smart and bringing in Kristaps Porzingis. The move has significant implications for the Celtics on a number of levels.

Here are some takeaways from the Celtics’ decision and what it means for Boston going forward…

Tatum Takeover

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - MAY 14: Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics celebrates as he is taken out against the Philadelphia 76ers during the fourth quarter in game seven of the 2023 NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference Semifinals at TD Garden on May 14, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Jayson Tatum (Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Now that Smart is gone, the longest tenured Celtics iiiiisJaylen Brown, actually, not Jayson Tatum. But it’s clear which player’s talent level and potential and ceiling are higher, and who should finally take over as the team’s leader and identity. That’s Tatum.

Smart clearly never was the caliber of player that Tatum is, or Brown, for that matter. But it became apparent that Smart’s tenured status with the team – his ego? – got in the way at times. His departure should make it easier for Tatum to lead with the type of voice that can’t be drowned out by an unnecessarily dominant personality.

A real “Big 3”

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - MAY 25: Jayson Tatum #0 talks with Jaylen Brown #7 of the Boston Celtics against the Miami Heat during the fourth quarter in game five of the Eastern Conference Finals at TD Garden on May 25, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Here’s a key reason that the inflated sense of Smart’s value – whether by him or the team – was a problem: despite his defensive acumen and intensity and competitive juice, Smart simply doesn’t produce enough to be a true member of any championship-caliber “Big 3”, especially not at the offensive end.

Porzingis, meanwhile, has averaged 21.4 points and 8.3 rebounds per game over his past five active seasons (he missed all of 2018-19 with an ACL injury). He’s coming off a career year with the Wizards, with 23.2 points per game while shooting a personal best true shooting percentage of .627, which ranked 27th in the league. Only new teammate Al Horford and ex-Celtic Kelly Olynyk shot more efficiently from three among centers (38.5 percent).

We’ll see how the Celtics plan to replace what Smart brought to the table (more on that below), but the addition of Porzingis instantly gives them an infusion of real firepower on offense. And something closer to a real Big 3.

  • Still need Smart-like player(s)

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - MAY 25: Jimmy Butler #22 of the Miami Heat controls the ball ahead of Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics during the third quarter in game five of the Eastern Conference Finals at TD Garden on May 25, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

    Just because Smart is not a star, or as great or important as many seem to believe he was, doesn’t mean the C’s couldn’t use a guy like him. But preferably, they add a veteran guard who can play tenacious defense and set a fine example for his less experienced teammates, with none of the bluster or drama that sometimes came with Smart.

    Stevens certainly isn’t done making additions or changes to their roster. It wouldn’t be surprising if adding a tough defensive-minded guard is on the docket.

  • The Derrick White Era

    Apr 18, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics guard Derrick White (9) drives the ball against Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young (11) in the first quarter during game two of the 2023 NBA playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

    David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

    After an often-brilliant playoff and a proven track record of being able to impact the game at both ends of the floor, it’s time for Derrick White to ascend to the starting point guard role. He’s better offensively than Smart and has shown some legitimate defensive skill, which arguably makes him an overall upgrade over Smart in the lead role.

    The Celtics still have Malcolm Brogdon as of Monday. He’s expected to be ready for the start of next season even if he undergoes surgery, according to Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe. But if Brogdon ends up still a Celtic, it’s likely he remains in the sixth man role and backs up White.

  • Brittle Bigs

    NEW YORK, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 04: Kristaps Porzingis #6 of the Washington Wizards reacts after hitting a three point basket during the first half against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center on February 04, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

    Kristaps Porzingisw (Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

    Though the Celtics just got a nice injection of talent in the frontcourt with the addition of Porzingis, the concern with him was never his ability. Injuries have become a bigger concern in the wake of swapping out the reasonably durable Smart for Porzingis, whose 65 games played last season feel like a minor miracle.

    On top of that, Robert Williams III (35 games last season) always has a new injury lurking around the corner and Horford is now 37 years old. So, interestingly enough, this move may force the Celtics to reinforce their depth at guard AND big.

  • Two types of people

    MIAMI, FLORIDA - MAY 27: Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics looks on against the Miami Heat during the fourth quarter in game six of the Eastern Conference Finals at Kaseya Center on May 27, 2023 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

    Marcus Smart of the Boston Celtics looks on against the Miami Heat during Game 6 of the 2023 Eastern Conference Finals. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

    This has nothing to do with the trade itself, but the difference in reactions to the Smart trade among national and local media was striking. Guys like 98.5 The Sports Hub play-by-play man Sean Grande acted like there was a death in the family, while the majority of national talking heads love the trade for the Celtics immediately placed them among their championship favorites.

    It was just interesting to compare those two complete opposite reactions, while of course the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

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    Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @realmattdolloff. Check out all of Matt’s content here.

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