How much value does one put on effort and intangibles? That’s the question that defines this offseason for the Boston Celtics. Celtics’ guard Marcus Smart is a restricted free agent and has yet to receive an official contract offer from the Celtics or an offer sheet from another organization. We are now two weeks into free agency. One of the more impactful restricted free agents remains unsigned. Why is that?
First off, Smart’s agent is Happy Walters. Yes that Happy Walters. The Happy Walters that talked Nerlens Noel into turning down a four-year/$70M deal last offseason, only for Noel to sign for the minimum this summer. Walters grossly misread Noel’s market last year. He is heading down the same path this offseason with Smart.
The Celtics offered Smart a four-year/$48M offer early in the regular season. Smart turned the offer down in order to play himself into a bigger offer sheet after the season.
Well, Smart diminished his value a bit during the season. He failed to improve upon his shooting numbers. He suffered multiple injuries to his hand including a self-inflicted injury when he punched a picture frame in a hotel room after a road loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Smart camp entered the offseason expecting to be offered somewhere between $14M-$19M annually over three or four seasons. The restricted free agent market hasn’t been friendly to anyone this offseason. Smart is no exception.
As of this writing, there are only two teams that could possibly give the Celtics trouble by submitting an offer sheet for Smart.
After offering the Zach LaVine a four-year/$79M offer sheet which the Chicago Bulls quickly matched, the Kings considered submitting an offer sheet to Smart over the weekend. As reports continued to roll out, the Kings actual interest in Smart seemed minimal.
It doesn’t make much sense for the Kings to add him to their young nucleus at a steep financial price. If the Kings actually wanted to land Smart, they’d need to offer him around the same contract that they offered LaVine. It would’ve been a gross over payment for LaVine. The same would apply for Smart.
Who better to submit an expensive offer sheet for Smart and force the Celtics to get into the luxury tax entering next summer than the Brooklyn Nets. Since Brooklyn traded its future away for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, they’ve been a proverbial pain in the ass to teams in restricted free agency. It started with forcing the Washington Wizards to match a max offer sheet for Otto Porter Jr. Brooklyn made the Portland Trail Blazers matched a four-year/$75M sheet to Allen Crabbe. By the way, Brooklyn traded for that terrible contract a year later. Idiots.
Anyways, in Brooklyn’s mind it’d be such a great idea to force the Celtics to match a huge deal for Smart. The issue, Brooklyn only possesses about $11.5M in cap space. So the best Brooklyn could offer him is around four years at $48M. That is the deal the Celtics offered him in October. So congrats Brooklyn you can force the Celtics to match an offer that they’ve already made.
Where Smart Goes From Here
Smart and his representatives are now faced with two options in the coming weeks. They can either accept the $6M qualifying offer from the Celtics. That would allow him to rebuild his value and to enter unrestricted free agency next season. Taking the qualifying offer is a risky move as well. Ask Nerlens Noel.
Smart’s other option would be to try and get the Celtics back on board on the four-year/$48M offer that they put on the table in October.
Smart is an integral part of the Celtics’ culture. There’s no player in the NBA more willing to throw his body on the line in the name of winning a basketball game. Boston recognizes that but they also recognize his flaws. Whether it be his inefficient shooting numbers or his lack of maturity at times.
The Celtics seem determined to make sure that Smart is on their roster for years to come. It just has to be at an ideal price like that gives the flexibility to continue to develop a championship contender. He seems to be upset with how long the process is taking but the issues seem to be with the whole situation not just with the Celtics. The two sides need to come together soon. It’s holding up the Celtics flexibility to make another move this offseason. Boston does not intend to bid against themselves.
If one had to wager what happens with Smart, it’d be safe to bet on the Celtics and Smart’s camp getting something done in the coming weeks.