Celtics trade of their 1st rounder likely increased chances Marcus Smart is moved
As you all know the Celtics traded Kemba Walker for Al Horford last week. Since Kemba makes more than Al, Boston also took on the minimal contract of Moses Brown. But similiar to how the main piece for the Cavs in the Isaiah Thomas for Kyrie Irving trade was the Nets 2018 1st rounder, for Sam Presi and the Thunder they made this deal solely to acquire the 16 pick in this upcoming draft.
While fans undervalue faceless future draft picks, you will not find one GM in the league that does. Brad Stevens and the Celtics have scheduled workouts and interview with several draft prospects that have no chance lasting to the 2nd round. Why? Two reasons. One, it's a free opportunity to work out a young player you may want to sign or trade for down the road. And secondly, it's because the Celtics want to add a 1st rounder to this team.
One of the reasons given for the Walker for Horford deal is that now Boston has more financial flexibility to sign Evan Fournier. That is true, but also let's be honest here when fans say the trade was a good one because now we keep Fournier by paying him more they are also carrying a good amount of water for the Celtics ownership.
One of the original talking points when Hayward was traded with two 2nd rounders for a very large TPE was that Boston could then use that TPE to bring on aother very good to great player. They added Fournier, which seemed like a solid if not extaordinary deal. To now argue that Boston needed to move yet another big contract, so they had to give up pick #16 as collateral damage, in order to retain the player acquired for the TPE was not the original talking point. So it wasn't that the TPE would be used to replace Hayward, but that other contracts had to be moved by any means necessary? That's some moving the goal posts stuff right there.
While not re-signing Hayward, nor trading him for Myles Turner, and also unloading Kemba's contract has and will save Celtics ownership big time dollars in the short term, fans might not want to be so quick to toe the party line. The next shoe to drop might be long time fan favorite Marcus Smart. In terms of Celtics assets excluding the Jay's, the top ones other teams wanted/want were our upcoming 1st rounders, Robert Williams and Marcus Smart. Now that the Celtics 2021 and 2022 1st rounders are no longer in play, Smart and Time Lord become the most likely casualties in Stevens' remaking the team.
Freeing up money in the Kemba trade to sign Fournier to a long term deal means Smart's days in Boston are now likely numbered
If part of the plan for the Walker/Horford deal was for Boston to retain Evan Fournier, than the writing is pretty much on the wall, that Smart is very likely to be traded. Neither Smart or Fournier are that proverbial "3rd star" for a team. If any blog or media member tweets something differently they are just pandering for your reteweets and likes. I contend that when you look at a team that just won a championship, Smart is the type of player you had on that team. I still stand by that. The 3 time champion Warriors had a guy like that in Andre Iguodala. But they also had 3 to 4 stars in Curry, Klay, Draymond, and Durant.
A casualty of the Celtics going from a team with like 5 or 6 potential All-Stars in Kyrie, Hayward, Jaylen, Jayson, and Horford (the younger version from his previous stint) as well as a collection of young assets in all their 1st rounders and Terry Rozier to the current roster is that you can't add a 3rd star without sacrificing Marcus Smart. And even if somehow you could get a 3rd star by trading all your young guys on rookie deals and drafts picks from 2023, you still couldn't keep Smart. Only way to still pay Smart woukd be if the rest of the roster was full of young players on rookie deals or you drafted them. And there's the rub... you just traded all those guys.
Big 3's don't work if all three guys are scoring wings. It's why any potential paring of Bradley Beal with the Jay's would be temporary. Durant, Harden, and Kyrie worked (prior to injuries) because both Harden and Kyrie can play the lead playmaking/point guard role. LeBron, Wade, and Bosh worked because not only did you only have two wings (and a big) but LeBron is a tremendous playmaker who can run an offense as a point forward in a Scottie Pippen role. And as much as I enjoy poking fun at LeBron or calling him out for his deficiencies, his unselfishness has never been questioned.
Pierce, Ray, and KG worked not only because one of them was a big, but also because KG averaged between 14 and 19 points on the Celtics and gave zero flying f#cks about that fact. He cared solely about championships, not a scoring average. Pierce and Ray could score the points. And I'm not calling either Pierce or Ray selfish. For both of them, scoring was their main NBA strengths. Not the exact same scorers as Tatum and Brown, but similar in that scoring is their elite talent.
(READER BEWARE: Entering the "JR goes off on a tangent" period of this post.)
One of the reasons why KG was so great and the ideal star to add to your team was because he could average 14 a game and still help your team win more than anyone else on the floor. If not for his trade to Boston in 2007, if you want to talk about "what ifs" imagine the early 2000's with prime Allen Iverson and KG teamed up. KG would have been the ideal pairing for The Answer. Same with Kobe. I'd argue that if Kobe and KG were teammates for their careers instead of Kobe coming up next to Shaq, that the Lakers would have several more championships.
Brad Stevens pulled the trigger on a major trade just a few weeks into his new role as President of Basketball Operations. Judging by the current roster, he is far from done. Here's a preview for what to expect, written on @celticslifehttps://t.co/BdyfD6x5eN
We were lucky Boston got the benefit of KG, and despite me not liking many things Ainge did, he still gets a huge tip of the cap for making KG in Boston a reality. And if any team has the right to blame injuries like the Nets and Lakers did following their eliminations this season, it would be the Celtics organization. If Len Bias was only half the player he was projected to be in the NBA, the Celtics of Bird, McHale, Parish, Ainge, DJ, Reggie Lewis, and Bias would have cleaned up on titles from the 1986-87 season and on. And the main reason the KG era Celtics won one lone title is because he himself blew out his knee in his 2nd season in Boston and the Celtics suffered injuries to key guys every year after.
KG (and his back-up Powe) was out for the 2009 playoffs. KG returned the next season, but if you watched the 2009-10 season and then the following two, you'd have observed that KG moved much better in 2010-11 and 2011-12 than he did that first year back (Same thing happened to Hayward). But even with a KG still not back they win that title if Kendrick Perkins doesn't go down in the Finals.
The next play-offs the Celtics were without Shaq (and that's Danny's fault for trading his back-up), but more importantly their best player by then, Rajon Rondo, went down with a severe shoulder injury against the Heat. And to show you just how good KG was, he was the Celtics second best player on that 2012 team (his 5th yr in Boston) that went 7 games in the Eastern Conference to the eventual champion Heat.
But who was hurt? Only one of their starteres in Jeff Green who missed the entire season due to heart surgery. As much as Green's tenure in Boston was a dissapointment, that 2012 advances to the Finals with him or even anyone someone a bit worse. No guarantee if they would have beaten the Baby Thunder in the Finals like the Heat, but there was a decent chance. (Tangent over)
Boston traded Wally Szczerbiak and their 1st rounder not just to dump a worse contract than Kemba's at the time in Wally, but for an All-Star still in their prime in Ray Allen. No valuable draft asset to trade in 2007, no Ray Allen (and therefore no KG)
So back to the current team. Unless Smart gets a serious career threatening injury, he's going to get a contract offer in the $22 to $28 million range in free agency next season. Older players who were sure to regress have gotten much more. There is NO WAY Stevens and the Celtics plan for this team is for their four big contracts moving forward, the core of their team, to belong to all wings in Tatum, Jaylen, Fournier, and Smart. And before you respend with something I already know, yes of course Smart was drafted as a point guard, but time and time again Boston has had the opportunity to give the keys to the position and they added someone else instead.
If Stevens' goal was for Celtics fans to approve of his first trade, he checked off 5 key boxes https://t.co/NvpqdEenX1
During Smart rookie season they traded Rondo at the deadline, but didn't give the point guard spot to Marucs, but instead traded a 1st for Isaiah Thomas. And then to double down on the fact that they weren't sure about Smart as the point guard of the future they drafted Terry Rozier. The Rozier drafting pissed Smart off, but he quickly learned that he could have a large role in the NBA as more of a jack of all trades, not just a point guard.
But sticking to the point, Boston again could have made Smart the starter when Isiah got hurt. It made no sense to back up the Brinks truck for IT4 after that, but Ainge could have traded Thomas elsewhere. He could have used that valuable Nets pick on a different current star. But no he chose an elite point guard in Kyrie Iriving. Two years later, would Smart finally get his shot when Kyrie renegged on his Boston promise and completed his side plan with Durant (and DeAndre Jordan) to all team up? Nope. Ainge let every expring contract walk for nothing to have the cap space to sign Kemba Walker.
So no Marcus Smart is not going to get paid big money to be the Celtics starting point guard this time around. I'm not even all that confident Boston retains Fournier. It's a similar issue in regards to paying another player who's position is the same as the Jay's. Fourner is neither a point guard/playmaker nor is he a big. His greatest strength is scoring the ball.
Now if Fournier walks, nobady wins. Hayward and picks were traded for a TPE which was traded with two more picks for Fournier. Then you gave up one of your biggest assets to improve the team in #16 to dump Kemba's contract for Horford and your main selling point was this gives you a better chance to re-sign Fournier and he walks? No, I think its more likely Boston forced itself into a corner of overpaying Fournier a bit to stay so save face for the organization. But Fournier is a FREE AGENT, he's free to sign anywhere he likes. A contract offer that seems like an overpayment still might not get the deal done.
Fournier is free to accept an even better offer elsewhere. He could accept a sililar elsewhere and if he really like the place/team he could even accept slightly less. Happens all the time. Guys have even signed in Boston for less than they were offered elsewhere. No guarantees with free agency. Also why Stevens doesn't wait til next offseason when Smart is a free agent to see if they can keep him.
Celtics drafting Al Jefferson ('04) & Rajon Rondo ('06) were keys to the team's success in the KG era
Just like last offseason, the Celtics are expected to attempt to use Smart as the carrot to draft a younger, less expensive player of need. While they could aim higher last offseason when Smart was a year younger, had an extra year left on a team friendly contract, was on the All-Defensive team, and was key contributor of an Eastern Conference Finals team, this year you're not even going to get in the discussion with a team for a top pick. Especially since you can't use Smart as the bait to trade up from your mid teen draft spot.
If the Celtics plan is to re-sign Fournier to be the 3rd wing, than that's a tell that Stevens will follow Ainge's lead and offer Smart for the highest pick he can. If the Celtics sign Fournier to a long term contract then Smart is gone by the trade deadline at the latest. Stevens and the Celtics aren't just going to put a band aid on this roster and sign some low money vet point guard. They can't aim higher and try and draft their own Tyrese Haliburton without a 1st rounder. No, Boston was already going to see what they could get for Smart at the draft. Now the odds are just much higher.
There was a window for Smart to remain in Boston long term if Stevens knocked his first rounder out of the park and drafted a Haliburton or Rondo out of the top of the lottery. You draft your third star, maybe sign-and trade Fournier, and you re-sign Smart to his big money contract to be your jack of all trades 4th or 5th guy.
But now Smart and Time Lord are the lone remaining assets that you can use for an upgrade this year. Time Lord due to playing a position other than wing and the fact that his next contract should be less is safer. Unless the Celtics decide that like Kemba, they simply can't trust Time Lord to remain healthy enough and they decide to dump him while his value has decreased, he has a place in the Celtics future plans as their starting center. To be honest unless you're aiming just moderately high in a trade, both Smart and Time Lord would have to be a part of any blockbsuter deal for a legit third star.
Adding smoke to the Smart is a goner fire, you had two stories come out in the Boston media since Ainge left. One was that Stevens and Smart butted heads and the other was kind of the opposite. That other players felt Smart was favorited by Stevens.
So to all the people on Twitter that have said "The Celtics don't need another rookie or 1st rounder" so who cares that #16 was a part of the deal to get rid of Kemba, if they are fans of Marcus Smart, unfortunately that trade has made it more likely their guy is a goner. Boston lost the opportunity to improve through the draft by either picking a guy at #16 or using that pick as a main carrot to facilitate a sign-and-trade for a point guard like Lonzo Ball. Moses Brown has no trade value around the league if you're wondering. We can like him and hope he excels in Boston, but no one is trading of this first round for Moses Brown.
And lastly if you weren't going to use the pick to either draft or trade for a high impact player or point gaurd, you no longer have the remaining option in running things back with Kemba. So can't your 2021 or 2022 1sts for a new starting point guard, can't draft one in August, and you can't start Kemba. The Celtics at least for now have no plans to immediately trade Horford. The plan is to keep him and use him as one of your bigs. He's 35. We're talking this season and maybe next with Al in the Celtics plans. Long term he sadly has no future as a key piece of this team because of age.
If you thought non-Boston NBA followers were wrong to say OKC one last week's deal you are very entitled to that opinion. I proposed a Kemba for Horford swap months ago aand many of the same people who loved the deal last week were against that version. And my version didn't include the #16 pick! This is what's referred to as drinking the green kool aid. You're a fan or Boston media member who just regurgitates Celtics PR talking points:
"Had to let Horford walk because no way you want to pay him for those 3rd and 4th years on the deal when he will be 35 and 36.
Kemba was a great signing and lol at the Hornets for signing Rozier (for half as much) instead."
"The TPE will be used for Hayward's replacement. Be patient."
"Have to give away Theis for luxury tax reasons in order to trade for Fournier."
"Only way to keep Fournier (Hayward's replacement) is if you get rid of big contract, so Boston had to package the #16 pick to get that done."
Some of the other things fans say even the Celtics PR department wouldn't be crazy enough to use as a talking point. Like no one affiliated with the Celtics would ever say "Mo Wagner will be as good or better than Theis!" or "Moses Brown is better than having pick #16." But if you liked the trade last week, just know that you also are liking the plan of a Celtics team moving forward without Marcus Smart.
There are no guarantees with finding a suitable trade partner, but brace yourself that Smart now has a good chance of being dealt by this summer's draft.