Marcus Smart has been the heart of the Boston Celtics since the year he was drafted. His defense, energy, and tenacity that he brings to the court are infectious to himself, his teammates, and the fan base.
But there are skeletons in the Marcus Smart Experience.
He has only played 70 games or more once in his four year career, he’s a career 36% shooter from the field which includes sub-30% from three, and his development has stagnated in the past two years. His fiercest loyalists will point to his positive impact on the team despite his shortcomings. However, even if that concession is made, there’s no denying that there’s is a ceiling to how much you can pay for Smart and it’s not 100% certain that Boston won’t be priced out.
Most don’t expect this to be the case. There’s a very limited market and a lot of the teams that are in the market for guards addressed their needs in the draft. But in the event that the team may need to prepare life without their ultimate glue guy, here’s the how the Celtics should look to replace his production.
Who to target?
If Smart was to walk, the Celtics would actually be well-equipped to deal with his absence. Gordon Hayward was already being groomed to play the lead guard on the second unit, Terry Rozier has proven he excels more in a bigger role, Brad Wanamaker is a very similar player to Smart in both body type and potential role, and Marcus Morris, who was projected to have a much smaller role this year, would suddenly find more minutes to be had. Here’s how the roster would look without Smart:
Because Boston is over the cap, they’ll have the full mid-level exception (8.6 million) to play with and will be entering a market that is high on rotation-depth, but low on money. Because of the limited market, Boston will be able to offer players comparable money with the caveat of playing for a title contender. Due to the overall depth of the roster, any free agent would be coming with the understanding that they would have to fight for an everyday rotation spot. Boston is set at the big and forward position both in the starting lineup and reserves where they have more guys than minutes. The guard position is well-stocked as well, but even a minor injury that keeps one of them out for a couple of weeks would make the depth in the back court very thin. So with that being said, let’s get into some potential options for the Celtics.
Shabazz Napier (8.7 ppg, 2.0 apg, 2.3 rpg)
The Massachusetts native hasn’t had the star-studded career that LeBron James predicted, but has proven himself to be a solid rotation guard in Portland. He’s a strong playmaker, and good shooter who is capable of putting up 20 points if given the chance. There’s a very real chance that he could attain a bigger role from some other team, but if he’s one of the guys that falls through the cracks, Boston could have a shot. Minutes wouldn’t be guaranteed, but Napier would have a chance to compete for reserve backcourt minutes with Rozier and Wanamaker while also having the versatility to play with both of them due to his shooting ability. A one-year deal where Napier could come on the team and show his worth on a title contender before the big 2019 free agency could be a very appealing situation.
Devin Harris (8.4 ppg, 2.1 apg, 1.8 rpg)
Harris is a 13-year veteran who has been around the block twice and has been a trusted member of one of the hardest PG coaches in the league in Rick Carlise. Harris doesn’t wow you with his numbers, but had the highest net rating of any Maverick (12.6) before he got traded and makes up for his diminished speed with basketball savvy. With a decade-plus of basketball behind him, the only thing Harris has yet to check off in his successful career is a championship. At this stage of his career, he’d probably be happy in a more limited role with a chance to chase a title.
The Celtics want Marcus Smart back and Marcus Smart has already stated his interest in wanting to stay in Boston. Chances are the two agree to at least the one-year qualifying offer though I'm sure there’s a multi-year deal that both sides will agree to. However, in the situation that the two sides are not able to work something out, Boston will have options.