Once the Celtics were bounced from the 2018 postseason by the Cavaliers, it didn’t take long for speculation about Boston’s offseason to begin. Veteran guard Marcus Smart, who will be a restricted free agent, got the rumor mill going when he was asked after Sunday’s loss about the Celtics potentially being unable or unwilling to re-sign him to a deal in the $12-14MM range.
“To be honest, I’m worth more than $12-14 million,” Smart told ESPN, as we relayed this morning. “Just for the things I do on the court that don’t show up on the stat sheet. You don’t find guys like that. I always leave everything on the court, every game. Tell me how many other players can say that.”
As Smart suggests, his numbers don’t particularly jump off the stat sheet — in 54 games (11 starts) this season, he posted 10.2 PPG, 4.8 APG, and 3.5 RPG, with a subpar shooting line (.367/.301/.729). However, Smart makes up for his offensive limitations on the other side of the ball, keying Boston’s defense with his excellent play on the perimeter.
When Smart was on the floor this season, the Celtics’ defense – which led the NBA in overall defensive rating – was at its best. The club had a 99.4 defensive rating with Smart on the court, compared to 103.0 when he sat. That trend continued into the playoffs, as Boston’s defensive rating was 3.5 points better when Smart played. The C’s even posted marginally better offensive numbers with Smart on the court, despite his inconsistent shooting.
Those advanced numbers help show how important Smart is to the Celtics. Andre Roberson has a similar impact in Oklahoma City, earning a three-year, $30MM contract from the Thunder last offseason despite being even less of an offensive threat than Smart. When Roberson went down with a season-ending injury this year, OKC missed him badly, and you could make the case that Smart’s absence would negatively affect the Celtics in the same way — after all, Smart’s teammates refer to him as the heart of the club.
Unlike the Thunder though, the Celtics have a ton of depth in their backcourt and on the wing. If they don’t bring back Smart, they’ll still head into 2018/19 with Kyrie Irving, Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Gordon Hayward available as playmakers and perimeter defenders. And while there are no CBA rules stopping the Celtics from paying whatever it takes to keep Smart, the team is likely headed into tax territory down the road once youngsters like Rozier, Brown, and Tatum are up for raises. As such, it may not be worth it for the franchise to invest heavily in Smart.
What do you think? Do the Celtics need to make it a priority to re-sign Smart this summer, even if they have to overpay a little to do it? Or is Boston’s roster deep enough that the club should try to bring back Smart at a team-friendly price, and let him walk if he gets a better offer? Will Smart be wearing Celtic green next October?
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