With a flurry of free agent deals flying off the Twitter handles, the most pertinent news for the Boston Celtics so far has nothing to do with a current free agent. Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald noted on Twitter that Marcus Smart will be seeking a max contract extension this summer.
Re: Smart. He's seeking a max extension (approximately four years, $80 million; same money the team doesn't want to pay Evan Fournier), and still faces a tough negotiation. Celtics are targeting 2022 free agency.— Mark Murphy (@Murf56) August 2, 2021
Don’t let the words “max extension” fool you. $80 million isn’t an absurd amount of money. It might be pushing the limits of what a player like Smart might earn on the open market (seriously, take a look at some of these deals being signed), but it’s not an outrageous overpay. I’d imagine that the Celtics would like to negotiate down from $20M annually, however.
Right now, the team is seeking to bring back Evan Fournier, but they might be priced out of that endeavor since the guard/forward is reportedly seeking around $20M annually. Would the Celtics pay this price for Marcus Smart but not Evan Fournier?
The biggest thing to keep an eye on is financial flexibility. The team is clearly trying to open up cap space for the summer of 2022 so that the Cs can find a way to acquire Bradley Beal to pair with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. In that scenario, it makes sense holding off on extensions for both Marcus Smart and Robert Williams.
On the other hand, there’s still the sign-and-trade possibility for Brad Beal next summer, so loading up on midrange salaries (like Smart’s $20M) could be an alternative option for the team’s avenue to improvement.
There’s also the possibility that the Celtics really like the idea of a Smart-Brown-Tatum core, as has been said many times by all parties involved, and want to keep flexibility around that core.
There’s a lot up in the air! We’ll just have to wait and see. One thing that’s almost for sure is that no matter who pays Smart this summer or next, it’ll most likely be more than the 4-year/$52M deal he signed back in 2018.
This past season, Smart averaged a career-high 13.1 points, a career-high 5.7 assists, 3.5 rebounds, and 1.5 steals on 39.8% shooting from the field, 33% shooting from behind the 3-point line, and 79% from the free-throw line.