On Thursday, the Boston Celtics announced that restricted free agent (RFA) Marcus Smart would be re-signing with the team. The contract was later released to be a four-year, $52M contract. The deal, coincidentally, came hours following the blockbuster Kawhi Leonard to the Toronto Raptors trade. The word “coincidentally” pays homage to the conspiracy theorists that say Smart could have been a piece in a possible sign-and-trade to Toronto as part of a Leonard trade package.
Regardless of reason, Smart came to terms with the harsh reality that is restricted free agency. Reports claimed Smart was “hurt and disgusted” by the lack of communication between him and the organization. However, this is the case for most restricted free agents. In unrestricted free agency, the field creates a bidding war, forcing the home team to also be attentive to their free agent. However, in RFA, the Celtics didn’t need to rush a deal, unless they need to match an opposing offer.
Should they have re-signed him?
Critics of Smart proposed the idea of letting the four-year guard go, as his 75% from the line and 30% from 3-point range are ugly numbers in a shooting-enamored NBA. To be honest, it is true from an analytical perspective. In a league of 3-and-D forwards and guards, Smart’s omission of the “3” in that equation makes his $13 million a year payroll hideous to most teams. However, for Boston, his addition to their culture allows the Celtics to spend the extra $25 million on an emotional leader.
The easiest way to pinpoint’s Smart’s value is to rewind to the 2016-17 Celtics team. Remember that team? Anchored by two doubted vets, Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford, the scrappy boys in green were doubted. They were also called “the weakest No. 1 seed in NBA history” after fighting off the No. 8 seed Chicago Bulls in seven games. That exact squad, that boasted scrappers alongside Smart such as Jae Crowder, Kelly Olynyk, and Avery Bradley. They eventually went to the Eastern Conference Finals before being eliminated by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. That 53-win team, was anchored with the scrappy, dog-fight attitude that Smart boasted nearly every night.
It means a lot
This attitude is important to maintain in Boston’s locker room. The league’s defending defensive leaders cannot cultivate excellence without Smart’s abilities. That goes as both as a emotional leader and an athletic, switchable defender. This is why Smart’s $52M is suited for this franchise. Danny Ainge understands his team’s identity. With Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward returning this coming season, Smart’s signing solidifies this roster as one of the most formidable in the NBA.