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Leftover Porzingis-Smart trade thoughts

The Boston Celtics certainly look different now.

Boston Celtics v Washington Wizards Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

It has been a few days since Marcus Smart was traded for Kristaps Porzingis and the dust is still settling on that deal. There’s just a lot to process beyond the emotional “love and trust is gone” aspect.

The Boston Celtics will not be “running it back” with the same core group. Brad Stevens decided that we needed a different look and was once again decisive in making a bold move and I have a few leftover thoughts to get down on “paper” before we move on to free agency.

As many analysts have pointed out, the Celtics got the guy most believe to be the best player in the trade and still got two first rounders out of it. That’s a “win” in most people’s eyes from a pure asset perspective.

I do think it is worth noting the additional moving pieces, too. The Celtics traded Smart, Danilo Gallinari, Mike Muscala, and the number 35 pick in exchange for Porzingis, a Warriors protected 2024 first rounder, and the 25th pick in this year’s draft. They moved 25 for several 2nd rounders and used one of those to select Jordan Walsh (who they could have picked with the 35th pick). All told, that’s value plus plus.

Detroit Pistons v Boston Celtics Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images

The other shoe that needs to drop is Grant Williams. It very much appears that he’s out of the picture now. We just don’t know how he’ll be leaving and what options that may leave the Celtics with going forward. NBC Sports Boston’s Chris Forsberg summarizes it like this:

The Celtics are no longer in position where they can easily afford to splurge to retain Williams (at least not without first moving Brogdon’s salary). The reality is that if head coach Joe Mazzulla was reluctant to play Williams at times last season — including in the postseason — the team cannot afford to pay $12-plus million for a depth piece.

Boston can help a team land Williams by facilitating a potential sign-and-trade, but don’t expect much of a return. A team with cap space doesn’t necessarily need the Celtics’ assistance. What’s more, Williams’ status as a base-year compensation player complicates sign-and-trade deals.

On paper, the Celtics roster is more well balanced now. They have three ball handlers in Derrick White, Malcolm Brogdon, and Payton Pritchard. Behind Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, they now have both Sam Hauser and Jordan Walsh who could provide a situational offense/defense platoon. And of course, the bigs are now Porzingis, Al Horford, and Robert Williams III, each of whom is an injury risk in his own way (but there’s still Luke Kornet around to sop up minutes in the regular season).

With that said, it doesn’t feel like Brad Stevens is done yet. I’m not saying that he’s going to make any more trades on the level of the Smart deal. I very much think Jaylen Brown is sticking around on the supermax. But everyone in the world knows that Brogdon was minutes away from being traded and I’m still not sold that Pritchard is content staying in Boston. Something has to happen with Grant, even if that means getting another 2nd rounder and a TPE (that likely won’t be used).

I’m also fully expecting to hear about a Porzingis two-year extension announced in the first day of free agency. He and his agent surely knew that there was interest around the league (the Jazz, apparently) and used that leverage to force the Celtics hand before the deadline to pick up his offer.

Then comes the advanced level calculus that hurts my head. If the Celtics lock up Jaylen with a supermax and extend Porzingis, we’re looking at a very expensive team long term. They’ll have Tatum, Brown, White, Porzingis, and maybe Brogdon under contract for a few years and very little wiggle room under the 2nd apron. Or if they decide to go all in and give Grant a contract and blow through the apron, they’ll be putting themselves squarely in the sights of the new CBA (specifically designed to punish teams like that). If Wyc wants to write the check for that, who am I to tell him not to? I just worry that there’s a lot of injury risk there and no good outs if things don’t go perfectly next season.

Clearly, there’s a lot left to work out here. Thankfully, I generally trust Brad Stevens and Mike Zarren to have this mapped out well beyond anything I could think of. Things are changing quickly in the NBA these days (oh look, John Collins finally got traded). The teams that will thrive will be the ones that can adapt the quickest. So, we’re going to learn a lot here in the next week or so.

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