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Murphy: In Marcus Smart Situation, Danny Ainge Holds All the Leverage (podcast)

Celtics Beat welcomes the Boston Herald’s Mark Murphy, the go-to guy on all things Marcus Smart

Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics - Game Seven Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Everybody and their source’s mother has an opinion on Marcus Smart this summer.

The Boston Celtics’ longest-tenured player has rapidly become one of the most divisive guys in the NBA. The advanced analytical revolution can’t quantify the VORP of a guy who’s eye-popping winning plays are only outnumbered by stretches head-scratching shot selection.

With cases as complex as this summer’s will they/won’t they contract situation with Smart, some opinions matter more than others.

Celtics Beat brought on the expert on all things No. 36, Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald to get his take.

“I think it’s probably right in that range, maybe 4 for 50 (4 years/ $50 million). They won’t be overpaying him,” Murphy told Adam Kaufman this week on Celtics Beat. “It’s obvious that Danny doesn’t want to over pay. But, I think it’s fair, I think that’s where Marcus is in the market right now.”

Smart reportedly turned down a similar offer last year, but as the summer wears on and the market is dictated by which teams have money or are willing to spend it, Smart’s camp is losing leverage.

Murphy thinks Ainge is holding most of the cards right now, and we’re going to start seeing Smart and his agent, Happy Walters, start scrambling.

“Happy is out there trying to conjure something up and they’re losing ground. … Time is on [Ainge’s] side, he has all the leverage here,” said the longtime Herald beat writer. “They’re starting to lower their sights. I think they’re willing to accept somewhere along the lines of the deal in October. I think somewhere in that 12-13 range.”

Smart thinks understandably highly of himself as a player, and what he brings to the Celtics is incredibly important. For the team Boston intends to be in 2018-19, a guy who can do the things he can defensively, while soaking up less than 10 shots a game is hard to find.

However, Ainge is basketball’s great pragmatist. He won’t hamstring himself an inch down the road by giving up ground now to appease what is ultimately a role-player off the bench. So he’ll say all the right things, playfully swipe at Smart’s hat at Summer League, and ultimately pay fair market money. What he won’t do is overpay on emotion when he has the future earnings of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum to consider.

“You know with these guys they’re always looking down the road and always looking at what their future flexibility is going to be. I don’t think he’s going to sign Marcus now and limit the money he can give to his younger stars later,” said Murphy.

Murphy also just doesn’t see the market competition. The poison pill offer isn’t coming this summer, because the teams with money just aren’t there. Smart’s basketball value is very specific. He’s not a plug-and-play guy on any team. Ultimately his camp is going to decide on long-term security or another self-gamble to see what opens up next summer.

“I think that probably what Happy was telling him, wasn’t going to happen. … Marcus is bull-headed, kind of stubborn, he has incredible self-belief, otherwise he wouldn’t be the player he is,” Murphy said on Celtics Beat. “He said it, ‘I’m worth $15 million.’ Maybe next summer he is worth that, and that might be what drives him to sign that qualifying offer.”

This column was prepared by Mike Walsh for CelticsBlog and CLNS.