The Celtics and Marcus Smart didn’t agree to a contract extension last offseason, which was unsurprising. Smart was a difficult player to evaluate. He defended all three perimeter positions well, hustled all over the court, looked OK as a distributor and struggled mightily as a shooter, particularly beyond the arc. Why not take another season to evaluate him rather than lock in then?
Well, a year later, Smart still defends all three perimeter positions well, hustles all over the court, looks OK as a distributor and struggles mightily as a shooter, particularly beyond the arc.
How much is Smart worth?
He answers that difficult question entering restricted free agency.
Smart, via Jackie MacMullan of ESPN
“To be honest, I’m worth more than 12-14 million,” Smart told ESPN. “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.”
Smart’s contributions exceed traditional box scores, but that salary seems high.
Take the NBA’s 29 other teams. Eliminate those without $14 million in cap space, which will be most of them. Eliminate those that don’t believe they can scheme around Smart’s shaky shooting, a major deficiency in the modern NBA. Eliminate those that don’t want to waste time with an offer sheet Boston might match, anyway.
Do any teams remain?
It takes only one, and maybe Smart can find that team. But I wouldn’t bet on it.
He can also negotiate directly with the Celtics, but they have leverage. They already have Kyrie Irving and Terry Rozier (who’ll be extension-eligible) at point guard. Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Gordon Hayward should see plenty of time together in versatile lineups, which would reduce the need for Smart at shooting guard.
Boston also has significant financial motivation to keep Smart’s salary low, as it could easily push the team into the luxury tax.
Smart’s qualifying offer will be $6,053,719. As long as his perception of his own worth remains so high, that might be the number to keep an eye on.