There are three things that will never die on NBA Twitter.
- Warriors fans arguing about Draymond getting suspended for game 5 of the Finals
- Giannis versus Embiid debates
- Marcus Smart “overrated” arguments
It is never too early to talk about NBA Free Agency, right?
Ever since Smart came back from his self-inflicted hand injury, the Celtics are 6-2 and playing great ball. During Smart’s absence, the Cs went 6-5. Ugh. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to explain just how much he means to his team. Sure, he can’t shoot. Sure, he takes questionable shots. Yet, the guy singlehandedly beat the Rockets by frustrating James Harden into two late game offensive fouls. He is a top 10 defender who can legitimately guard 1-4. Oh, and he is a terribly underrated passer. The questions remain, however: Who signs him this offseason and for how much money?
Danny Ainge, Brad Stevens and Celtics players love Marcus Smart. He is the first on the floor for loose ball. He gets putback dunks (see Timberwolves, Minnesota). He draws charges against future MVPS. So, what’s the problem? Nobody knows what Smart is going to get offered this offseason. The majority of teams in the league have their cap space tied up in bad deals from the previous two summers. Yet, this could drive Smart’s value either North or South. Only a handful of teams can afford to offer him a suitable Restricted Free Agency offer. If Smart draws a 14-15 million dollar offer, then Ainge may decide to let him walk and rock with the much-improved Terry Rozier instead. Still, the Cs are in the lead to resign their leader.
Speaking of Cap Space:
I went through all the teams who feasibly have the money to send Smart an offer sheet. They are Philadelphia, LAL, Chicago, Atlanta, Brooklyn, Dallas, Sacramento, Orlando and Phoenix. Phoenix will most likely match the RFA offer that Elfrid Payton lands, especially considering his improved play since joining the Suns. Orlando will use up its cap matching Aaron Gordon’s RFA sheet also. Brooklyn has three point guards already and there is zero chance Smart plays in Atlanta. Who does that leave us with?
We all know the 76ers want to land Lebron this offseason. And dammit, they have a chance. Yet, if Lebron heads elsewhere, Philly will be left with 31 million bucks to spend. Maybe they resign JJ Redick to a long-term deal for somewhere around 20 million a year, and then retain the extra cap space. Or, they could give longtime target Avery Bradley 16 million a year and offer Smart 14-15 million as well. Defensively, the 76ers would have the most talented roster in the League. Reuniting Smart with Bradley could see this team grow into a legitimate title contender in the East. A crunch time unit of Embiid, Simmons, Bradley, Smart and Roco/Fultz/Saric. My god.
Chance of signing – “Eh”
See above. This is another team that will try to sign Lebron. Oh, and let’s not forget about LA native Paul George. If this team strikes out, they will have 61 (!) million dollars to play with. They can bring back RFA Julius Randle, who has been averaging 19/9/4 since the break, and still offer a deal to Smart. A lineup of Kuz, Randle, Ball and Ingram plus Smart has a great blend of defense and shooting. This would be a “for the future” move and an excellent Plan B. Throw Josh Hart in that mix and this teams becomes very switchy and very dangerous from three, very fast.
Chance of signing: “(louder) Eh”
Remember when we all laughed at the Bulls for their Jimmy Butler trade? Turns out, the trade wasn’t as one-sided as we thought. Kris Dunn and IAmMarkkanen have shown promise this year. Zach Lavine came back from injury and is showing the athleticism and shooting prowess which has tantalized us in the past. Despite their current tank-a-thon, the Bulls have a bright future. Why not bring in a veteran to smooth out the transition from young stars to conference elite? Through osmosis, the Bulls can soak in Smart’s toughness, maturity, work ethic and competitiveness. Every young stud had a story about which player helped turn them into a true professional. Smart can do this while actually making the team better too. Contractually, the Bulls could find a trade partner for Jerian Grant or rescind David Nwaba’s qualifying offer. Four point guards would be a lot to carry.
Chance of signing: “*nods head intriguingly”
Talk about cap space, right? The Mavs have little money committed to the future. This is how Mark Cuban likes to run things; space is always needed in order to make a big-time move via free agency or trade. Dallas has three players (Barnes/DSJ/Dwight Powell) signed through 2019/2020! They can overpay for Smart and still live comfortability. I know what you’re thinking – “Dallas already has their point guard.” True. But Smart plays in multi-guard lineups all the time. Him and DSJ would have all the tools necessary to form the best defensive backcourt in the League. Carlisle would hate Smart’s inability to drain threes but, he would love his high IQ, passing ability and overall effort. Despite his recent comments on tanking, Mark Cuban is not one to for the slow rebuild. Expect him to gamble on a high-risk/high-reward draft pick, sign proven veterans, and get back in the playoff hunt.
Chance of signing: “Ight fam, I see you.”
Remember when we all laughed at that Boogie trade (see above, Bull,Chicago)? Well now the Pelicans will spending their free agency gambling over 100 million dollars that Boogie fully comes back from his injury. Conversely, the Kings have the seedlings of a little something nice. Don’t look now, but the Kings sport three players who all shoot above 40% from deep (BB, Hield and Mason.) De’Aaron Fox has shown clutch ability and is one of the three fastest end-to-end players in the game. Sacramento purposely shipped off Boogie because he was a poison to their locker room. Then they inserted Vince Carter and Z-Bo to change the culture. The Kings can add another culture-builder in Smart. What’s more, Smart will make this team better as well, both defensively and offensively. Sacramento does not own their pick next year, so improving is their best option. Plus, they have the cap space to get Smart.
Chance of signing: “How do you like California, Marcus?”
*Like all good sportswriters, the minute I wrote this, Smart got reevaluated for injury. Sorry, Marcus. Still, let us know your thought!