Free agency is upon us, and news of Paul George re-signing with the Thunder has dominated the first ten hours or so. But there is a guy in Boston, who Oklahoma State fans are quite familiar with, that has a free agency decision of his own to make.
Marcus Smart is on the open market, and has the opportunity to make a splash. I’m here to take a look at what teams will have money to spend and which ones might make an offer to a certain former Cowboy that might make the boys in Boston squirm.
Marcussmart to announce Restricted Free Agency decision in trailer for Texaschainsawmassacre— Lifelong Croatia Fan Man 69☭ (@HebertofRiffs) June 27, 2018
The Magic only have one true point guard on their roster, DJ Augustin, and they didn’t draft any others. This is a team that is loaded on wings and bigs that could use a much better lead guard. Orlando might be the only team with the money to sign Smart that could offer him a starting role, although Smart averaged 30 minutes a night in a 6th man role with Boston last season (that folks, is starter minutes). However, the Magic will have Aaron Gordon’s restricted free agency to deal with, and they may not have the money to sign Smart if Gordon commands big money on the free agent market, assuming that the Magic would match any offer he gets.
Orlando may look to fill its empty point guard room with a different former Celtic. Smart’s former teammate Isaiah Thomas had a tumultuous season after coming back from injury and will be looking to prove himself as the 28 PPG scorer that he was a season ago with Boston. He will likely come at a much cheaper price than Smart will (Orlando can sign Thomas with the Mid-Level Exception for around $8 million) and provides Orlando with a scoring punch that Smart can’t offer. He fits Orlando’s timeline a little better than Smart does. Thomas is the floor spacer that the Magic need to pair with Aaron Gordon and Mo Bamba.
Indiana might be the most intriguing suitor for Smart. If Indiana declines to pick up any of its team options, they will have $21 million in cap room, according to Indy Cornrows. They could have up to $35 million if Thad Young opts out. However, Indiana currently has four point guards, and this cap projection includes cutting one of them (Joe Young). Smart would likely fill the same role that he did in Boston, but could jump ship for Indy if they are able to make an offer that Boston can’t match (the specifics of which I get in to below).
Smart would be a good fit next to Victor Oladipo as well. There isn’t much of a market for a non-shooting lead guard in today’s NBA, but Smart would slot in nicely next to a guy who averaged 25 PPG last season. The addition of Smart to a team who finished as a five seed with 48 wins as well as up to $6-7 million more per year might be enough to pry Smart out of Boston.
Also, this doesn’t mean anything but.. (eyeball emoji)
Marcus Smart tweets “bet” and then two days later, the Cs sign a playmaker at his position before free agency begins.— Andrew Doxy (@ParaDoxy11) June 25, 2018
Smart grew up in the Dallas area and the Mavs project to have considerable cap space for next season. While he could still probably get 30 minutes a night, his fit next to recent draftees Dennis Smith Jr and Luka Doncic is questionable at best, and Smart probably doesn’t improve Dallas enough to even make the playoffs, nor does Dallas have the money to spend on a non-shooting guard. The Mavs will spend their money on whatever bigs are available in free agency (likely DeAndre Jordan) after passing on Mo Bamba in the NBA draft.
The Suns are another team to watch out for. They’ll have $15-20 million to spend this summer, although the recent signing of Trevor Ariza could take Smart out of the sweepstakes. Slotting Smart in next to Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton could be much like the Oladipo/Myles Turner situation he’d be slotting in to in Indiana. Phoenix is rumored to be interested in Smart according to Bright Side Of The Sun, but this isn’t a playoff ready team like Indiana.
The Bulls, Nets, Nuggets and Spurs could all pursue Smart as well. But these teams would either need to make major moves to free up the money (Nuggets, Spurs), would just want to spite Boston for a past trade (Brooklyn lol), or in the case of the Bulls, Smart is a backup plan in case Zach Lavine receives an offer that they wouldn’t be willing to match.
It is obvious that Boston wants Marcus Smart back. He played 30 minutes a night on one of the most talented rosters in the league, and he can’t even shoot the ball. Bobby Manning wrote a piece similar to this one (with green tinted glasses of course) to highlight what it would take for Boston to retain Smart. Per Celtics Blog, the Celtics can match for up to $15.6 million / year on Smart without spilling over the $123 million projected luxury tax line, which is important for Boston.
Celtics fans want nothing more than to run it back with the same squad from last year, plus healthy seasons from Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. Boston has the talent to win an NBA championship, but max contracts for Irving, Hayward and Horford, plus the impending free agencies of Smart, Rozier, Brown and Tatum for the next four years means that this squad won’t be together for forever. Boston could have to choose between keeping Smart at $15-20 million now and losing one or two of Rozier, Brown and Tatum later, or letting Smart walk.
Ultimately, Smart will likely be choosing between $10-15 million per year from Boston (depending on if the Celtics decide to resign Aron Baynes, Shane Larkin, etc.) and potentially $10-20 million from another team, likely Indiana or Orlando. It would be tough for the former Cowboy to leave a squad that has been to the Eastern Conference Finals each of the last two seasons, but an extra $35 million over the next four years just might be worth it. Wherever Smart lands, you can guarantee his efforts will inspire greatness, either way, our guy is about to get PAID (marcussmarttakingacharge.gif).
Also, don’t leave without enjoying this INCREDIBLE thread.
At his camp, Marcus Smart just tried to take a charge on a kid running to the pizza line. This tweet is not a joke.— Jay King (@ByJayKing) June 20, 2018