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Report: Celtics extend qualifying offer to Marcus Smart

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As expected, the 6’4” guard is now a restricted free agent.

NBA: Playoffs-Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Sources tell CelticsBlog’s Keith Smith that the Boston Celtics tendered a qualifying offer to point guard Marcus Smart today, effectively making him a restricted free agent when the free agency period begins at midnight on Sunday, July 1st. Smart now has three options as the summer approaches.

He can negotiate a deal with the Celtics directly and get a contract hammered out before even speaking to any other teams. This would put a period on Boston’s biggest question mark entering the off-season, as Smart was integral to the success of the 2017-18 Celtics that came within minutes of the NBA Finals after their Eastern Conference showdown against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Both the Celtics and Smart expressed a desire to keep the team together, so this option is entirely possible.

The second option would be for Marcus Smart to sign an offer sheet from 1 of the other 29 teams in the league. This move would tie up the cap space of the offering team for 3 days, but because Smart is a restricted free agent, the Celtics have the right to match all offers, retaining Smart’s services for next year and for however many years the deal extends. The Celtics would be able to trade Smart starting in December after signing him as a free agent.

This is the most likely scenario. Reports have trickled in that several teams, including the Indiana Pacers and the Sacramento Kings, have interest in the #6 overall pick from the 2014 NBA Draft. Smart himself said that he’s “worth more than $12-14 million,” and there just might be a team out there that’s willing to prove it. However, it remains to be seen whether or not a rival team will tie up their cap space to provide an offer sheet that the Celtics will just match. The most vocal team owner, Wyc Grousbeck, has already iterated that he’s willing to spend money to keep together a championship team, and Brad Stevens mentioned that he wants Marcus Smart back on the team next season.

The third option would be for Smart to accept the QO, worth $6,053,719.00, and to play out all of next season on what is essentially a one-year deal. This option is less likely than a team signing him to an offer sheet, but if no one comes knocking, Smart could take this option to bet on himself and the summer of 2019 when a lot more is in flux for the Celtics with the free agency periods of both Kyrie Irving and Terry Rozier. Al Horford is also eligible to opt out of his current deal next summer, so a lot could happen. Taking the qualifying offer would add a no-trade clause to Smart’s contract, meaning that he wouldn’t be allowed to be traded throughout the 2018-19 season without his approval.

In a few short days, we’ll have a clearer picture on Marcus Smart and his market as free agency opens. Losing Smart would be a big blow. He is the heart and soul of the team in addition to the defensive backbone along with Al Horford. The counterpoint to this is that if he costs too much to retain, the Celtics are well-equipped and talented enough to at least minimize the hit, though his absence would surely be felt at the most crucial moments next season.

Just a few more days, and we’ll know more.