Kemba Walker is no longer a Boston Celtic, and now it’s worth pondering the future of Marcus Smart.
The looming parting of ways between the Boston Celtics and Kemba Walker came on Friday morning, with a deal that will send him to the Oklahoma City Thunder. But new team president Brad Stevens probably isn’t done trying to make deals, which lands us on the future of Marcus Smart in Boston.
Smart’s contribution doesn’t always show up on the stat sheet. He’ll take on challenging defensive matchups, and toe the line of guarding someone closely and flopping at the first sign of contact coming back to him.
But Smart averaged career-highs in points (13.1) and assists (5.7) per game this season. He deserves credit for trying evolve his offensive game, attempting 5.9 and 6.6 3-pointers per game over the last two seasons. But based on his success rate from beyond the arc (33 percent this season), he probably shouldn’t be shooting quite that much.
What will the Celtics do with Marcus Smart?
With Walker gone, Smart makes some sense to shift over and become the Celtics’ starting point guard. But he’s not a ball-dominant offensive player the way we think of that position (17.5 percent career usage rate, albeit with a usage rate over 18 percent in three of the last four seasons). Boston probably needs someone who can drive the offense along with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, and Smart isn’t really it. And he’s not a good enough shooter to make opponents pay for leaving him open.
Smart has one year left on his contract, so he stands out as a possible trade chip for the Celtics. Even with a fairly hefty $14.3 million cap hit, there surely will be (and probably already are) multiple teams with interest in him. Trading Walker’s contract for Al Horford’s helps Boston’s cap situation in a broad sense. So the idea of offloading Smart’s expiring contract might not be that much of a priority now. Keeping him as part of the core for more year (or at least into next season) might happen, barring a trade offer that can’t be ignored.
Trading Walker was the most significant move Stevens could make in an effort to reshape the Celtics roster this offseason. Trading Smart wouldn’t be as huge. But it would be a sign that nothing is off the table, and Stevens has full authority to do whatever he sees fit to blow up the roster.