Every team could use Marcus Smart. He’s more cowbell: he may not provide the rhythm or melody to a great song, but man, if this jam doesn’t sound better with more Marcus Smart. As the fourth-year guard enters restricted free agency, there are a handful of teams that could offer Smart a contract in his rumored price range of $12-14M. However, after last Thursday’s draft, things might have changed with some potential suitors.
Based on varying reports, it’s been rumored that the Sacramento Kings, Indiana Pacers, Denver Nuggets, and Dallas Mavericks would be interested in signing Smart to an offer sheet when free agency opens on July 1st.
Per our Keith Smith (but on RealGM), Indiana is projected to have $32.8M in cap space, Dallas $18.6M, and Sacramento $18.7M. Denver could potentially have room, but it’s unlikely between players picking up their options, teams re-signing their free agents and first-round picks. There’s also the issue of fit for each team. Let’s take a look at who could be filling Smart’s dance card on Saturday night:
Kings: Sacramento opted not to draft Euro wunderkind Luka Doncic and instead picked Marvin Bagley Jr. at #2 along with his Duke teammate Gary Trent Jr. in the second round. Sacramento already has De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield in their starting back court. Veteran Garrett Temple still has an $8M player option due on June 29th that the 32-year-old will most likely pick up.
Fit: Signing Smart would be a tone setter for the Kings just like they attempted to do last summer by adding vets George Hill, Vince Carter, and Zach Randolph.
Pacers: Indiana is an interesting destination for Smart. They have a $10M non-guaranteed year left on Darren Collison’s deal, and they drafted another former Bruin, UCLA’s Aaron Holiday, with the 21st pick of the draft to team up with Victor Oladipo. They still also have the final season of Cory Joseph’s two-year, $15.5M deal.
Fit: The Pacers made a surprising run last year and are looking for young pieces to complement their emerging core. Smart makes a lot of sense, but they could be looking to bolster their front court more with Thaddeus Young considering free agency rather than picking up his player option and Myles Turner’s rookie extension on the horizon.
Mavericks: After trading up to draft Doncic, they added NCAA Player of the Year Jalen Brunson. They already have the electric Dennis Smith Jr. in the fold and don’t necessarily need another ball handler. Before the draft, the Mavericks were rumored to be interested in signing the Dallas native, but their draft moves suggest otherwise.
Fit: Like Indiana, Dallas’ priority could be focused in the front court. Dirk Nowitzki is entering his 20th season at age 40, and the Mavs have been linked to Julius Randle and DeAndre Jordan to bolster their bigs.
Nuggets: Denver is intriguing. They invested in the long-term potential of Michael Porter Jr. in the draft and will be looking to make their first playoff run after a five-year absence. But with Wilson Chandler picking up his player option, Will Barton’s future up in the air, and Nikola Jokic’s own restricted free agency on the agenda, there may not be room for another $10M+ long term deal on the Nuggets’ books.
Fit: The Nuggets already have a lockdown perimeter defender in Gary Harris and will use every penny to retain Jokic and maybe Barton. Their spending spree may not happen until next season when Chandler, Kenneth Faried, and Darrell Arthur are off the books.
Of course, there are other dominoes to fall. Wherever LeBron James doesn’t go will have money to spend. (How much would it kill you to see Marcus Smart as a Philadelphia 76er or, worse, an LA Laker?). Smart’s situation is a unique one. Usually, when teams comb through the free-agent market looking for players in the double-digit price range, they’re looking for tangible, counting stat contributions.
Smart’s points-per-game and minutes-per-game averages have steadily decreased since his rookie season. He’s become a more reliable point guard and distributor, but his value for the Celtics has been the intangibles. On a team rich with talent and depth, Smart is the perfect plug-and-play player that inserts energy and hustle to the second unit. Teams that don’t already have their basics covered may not be willing to pay Smart for that extra bump. During his exit interview, Smart suggested that the front office is already preparing for him to return, saying “I’m here. They’re already planning for me to be here. Those guys, I tip my hat to those guys. You don’t see a lot of organizations that’s as clear about their players as the way this organization does it.”
More cowbell please.