The Celtics Need To Extend Marcus Smart's Contract ASAP
It has been a crazy offseason for the Boston Celtics. We came in thinking we were going to have a core of Isaiah Thomas, Markelle Fultz, Gordon Hayward, and Al Horford after all moves had been made. However after a barrage of trades and signings we ended up returning only 4 of last year's players. We now have a core of Kyrie, Hayward, Horford, Smart, Jaylen, and Tatum. We traded our best player and scorer from last year in Isaiah Thomas, we traded our best defender in Avery Bradley, and we traded a chance at a transcendent player in the Brooklyn pick. We lost a good amount of players and pieces that represented our identity, but one player who defines Celtics culture the most is still on the team. That man's name is Marcus Smart.
Ever since he was drafted in 2014 Smart has brought an attitude that a young rebuilding team needed. He was the first step of the rebuild, the prize for the Celtics' only tank job. He helped forced the hand in trading the last remnant of an old era, Rajon Rondo. At the time we took him, opinions about him were split down the middle. Personally I've always loved my scrappiest son, but many fans were upset about his shooting woes and turnover issues. While those have still been concerns over time, Marcus Smart has become a very promising young player. Ever since he set foot on an NBA court he has been a great defender capable of guarding multiple positions, in fact all positions. Yes, in case you don't watch all the time Marcus Smart regularly locks down a center or power forward for a possession. His defensive versatility is a skill that is increasingly important in an era of basketball that emphasizes spacing and high paces. The only weakness in his defensive game was that he sometimes struggled to guard the hyper-quick elite guards like Kyrie Irving. Now that has changed for two reasons. The first is that Kyrie Irving is now his teammate, the second is that Smart lost nearly 20 pounds during the offseason and looks like he is in the best shape of his life. The scary thing about it is that although he has lost bulk he has not lost any of his patented strength, which will still help him in guarding bigger players.
Now many of his detractors will admit that his defense is really good but his offensive game is no where near it. They may have somewhat of a point, but Smart has shown flashes where he looks like he belongs on offense, especially lately. My main criticisms of his game in general are his inability to drive and finish and also his shot selection. I have never had a problem with the form of Marcus Smart's shot, that criticism of him around draft time was a little overblown. He has always had decent form it's just sometimes he takes really bad shots or if he makes one three then he's chucking up shots for the rest of the game. That needs to change and it looks like it might. Smart has looked incredible this preseason, every aspect of his game has looked good. I know people will say "oh well it's preseason it doesn't matter" but Smart shooting 58% from three on 4 threes a game is a nice sign for a 29% career 3 point shooter. It's also not just about his perimiter shooting, his drives to the rim have also looked better and resulted in more finishes. In fact Smart has been shooting 55% from the field during the preseason compared to his career 36%. Smart's shooting doesn't even need to be as good as it has been in the preseason, it just needs to be average and however further above average he goes the more of a star he'll be.
There is one aspect of Smart's game that can't be measured in any box score, his heart. Every time he comes in at the end of close games I know that he is going to make a big play that will help us win the game. Whether it be diving for a loose ball, getting a steal, grabbing a big rebound, or hitting a clutch shot Marcus Smart will do everything in his power to win you the game. It's his most redeeming quality. You can see the passion in his eyes whenever he is on the court. It has helped him become a leader on this team. I'm not in the lockerroom or around the team, but it seems like his determination and all-out effort really rub off on the rest of the team. He has been providing that ever since he got here and it's why we need to extend him. It's that time of year where the premiere young players coming off of their rookie contracts are starting to receive extensions, and not many people deserve it more than him. Joel Embiid just got a max contract for playing 30 games, Garry Harris just got $21 million a year, and I know Smart has been taking notice. What bothers me is the Celtics apparently haven't even reached out to him about it. We need to lock him up as soon as possible before he plays his way into more money. I really think Smart is going to have a breakout year, I even think he is strong contender for sixth man of the year. If I'm right he will be commanding big bucks in the crazy frenzy that is NBA free agency. He will be a restricted free agent so theoretically we could match any offer to keep him, but we should be trying to get him for as cheap as possible. We're already paying 2 guys huge max contracts, while our other star is still getting paid handsomely and will be looking for even more money in 2 years when his contract is up. Every penny you can save in this extension is important which is why it needs to happen now. Daniel Ainge I'm begging you, for the good of this franchise, please sign Marcus Smart for the love of god. Each day that passes without him being signed you will regret it.
Follow me on Twitter @tparrinello. I tweet heavily about the Celtics and other Boston sports teams.