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CelticsBlog debate Marcus Smart-Lauri Markkanen trade

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What’s the cost of ripping out the heart of a team?

Boston Celtics v Chicago Bulls Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images

With less than a week to go before the trade deadline on February 6th, we’ll debate some of the ideas and rumors that have surfaced over the last couple of weeks. If you need to take stock of Danny Ainge’s war chest of assets, make sure to check out Keith Smith’s trade primer for what Boston has to offer and what they might be looking for, both in the trade and buyout market.

The first potential deal comes from CelticsBlog alum and current Ringer, Kevin O’Connor:

Would I trade Smart? No. But he’s not untouchable, so Minnesota, New York, and Chicago should go after him. He could serve as both a lead playmaker and a culture changer. The Picasso of the Trade Machine sent me the following idea: Smart and Romeo Langford for Lauri Markkanen and Thaddeus Young. This was sent before a pelvis injury knocked Markkanen out for more than a month, but the structure still makes sense, whether it’s with Wendell Carter Jr. in place of Markkanen or with another team.

For what it’s worth, KOC does say that he would deal Smart, comparing a possible trade to the soul-gutting deal that swapped out Kendrick Perkins for Jeff Green. Here’s our take:

Andrew Doxy: I hate it. Burn it with fire. The Celtics need size, sure, but not desperately so as to lose a 1st Team All-Defense guard who protects the rim on occasion all on his own. I’d rather prioritize bench shooting because we’ve seen earlier this year that this team can defend the best in the league out when everyone’s healthy even with guys like Kanter on the floor, and we’ve been missing our best rim protector for a long time now in Robert Williams. If Boston makes a deadline deal, it certainly shouldn’t include Smart, and it should be to add bench scoring for a bench unit that’s sorely inexperienced and lacks shooting prowess.

Jeff Clark: Marcus Smart loves Boston and Boston loves him. Points to KOC for creative thinking and a clever way of giving more praise to Marcus but this trade idea is a non-starter. Marcus is effectively untouchable to me.

Adam Taylor: This team was designed using the Warriors blueprint. Marcus Smart is Boston’s Draymond Green in terms of emotional leadership. Trading that away is basically a cultural reboot on a squad yet to reach its collective prime. It makes no sense. Currently, Smart should be considered untouchable.

Arjun Balaraman: Marcus Smart is the heart and soul of this Celtics team. There is no way Boston should consider this deal. As Doxy said, “yes, the C’s need size, but this is not it. Neither Markannen nor Thad Young will help guard Embiid. Plus, Markannen has played the 4 his whole career, too. He’s not a great rim protector, and definitely doesn’t displace any of the starters, which would leave Wanamaker as the only reliable guard option coming off the bench. Certainly not ideal in the playoffs.

Keith Smith: No. And Kevin should know better as a CelticsBlog alum. I know he said he wouldn’t do it, but even putting such bad thoughts in the universe is a bad idea. Even if Smart still couldn’t make a single three-pointer, he’d still be worth his contract for all the things he does do. I’m not even sure I’d move Smart as part of a superstar acquisition. He’s that important to Boston. I’m certainly not doing it for big men who can’t stay healthy and an older guy who showing noticeable signs of declined play.

Jack Noonan: I would say no to this one. Yes, Marcus Smart may be the most tradable “bigger” contract the Celtics have, but it should not be used for this. Marcus Smart is everything to this city and team. His effort and hustle makes him a huge asset to this team. Of course, the big return would be an interesting player in Lauri Markannen. He has been held back in my opinion in Chicago and could thrive on a different team. That team isn’t really Boston though. He doesn’t fit the mold the Celtics need in their front court. Thad Young maybe could play good minutes, but the trade overall doesn’t help the Celtics enough to give up Smart or a project in Romeo Langford. It’s a no for me.

Shirley Coshatt: What Keith said!!

Greg Brueck-Cassoli: Before I stir the pot, let the record show that I find watching Marcus Smart to be an absolute delight, and that I agree with the assessment that he’s the Celtics emotional leader. Let it further show that I personally hope Boston keeps Smart forever, so I can continue to watch his brilliant defense and psychotic competitiveness. Now that we’ve acknowledged that, I’ll join our good friend KOC and step into the role of villain.

The Celtics need to re-balance their roster, both in the present and for the future. They’ve got a glut of perimeter players. They’re not trading Jayson Tatum. They basically can’t trade Jaylen Brown. And I think it’s safe to presume they’re not likely to get fair value trying to move Hayward. That leaves Smart.

The Celtics are 7-2 without Smart in the lineup this year, and Boston has been 5.2 points worse per 100 possessions in his time on the court to date, per Cleaning the Glass. There would be a real psychic cost to trading him, but to suggest that Boston’s culture would crater in Smart’s absence is unfair to the other leaders on the team.

The Celtics should absolutely consider a trade that could give them a long-term big to pair with Brown and Tatum (and Kemba Walker in the present). Whether or not this specific trade is the one to pull off is less clear. I’d probably make a move for Carter if it presented itself, but I could easily be convince that Boston should wait to see what the current version of its roster can do in the playoffs before pulling the trigger. The Celtics are really good, and Smart is a part of that, but the evidence doesn’t suggest that he should be untouchable.

Jeff Clark: My heart begs to differ.