They just followed a 55-win campaign with 11 playoff victories, despite losing Gordon Hayward on opening night and Kyrie Irving in March. Their potential for internal improvement is incredible—their top-three postseason scorers are 24 or younger—but they also have the trade chips to pursue a potential blockbuster if the right opportunity arises.
It's a big summer in Beantown, and it's unsurprisingly leading to several juicy rumors already. We've rounded up the latest below.
Lengthy List of Suitors for Marcus Smart
Smart enters restricted free agency as one of the more interesting players on the market.
On one hand, he's a shooting guard who can't shoot (career 36.0/29.3/75.6 slash line), which one might assume to be a fatal flaw given the modern Association's penchant for perimeter launching. But on the other hand, he's a defensive menace with the quickness, length and strength to take on assignments of all different sizes and styles.
Given the amount of teams reportedly interested in his services, per Yahoo Sports' Jordan Schultz, it seems there's much more focus on his strengths than his shortcomings:
Jordan Schultz @Schultz_Report
Per NBA source, the #Mavericks are a contender for #Celtics’ RFA Marcus Smart, but it “depends on price.” Other contenders, per source, include the #Bulls, #Suns, #Pacers, #Mavericks and yes, Boston. Smart, 24, averaged 10.2 points and a career-high 4.8 assists last season.
As the list of suitors indicates, Smart potentially appeals to clubs both present-focused and future-thinking.
He's young enough to believe he hasn't exhausted his upside, so a patient rebuilder like the Chicago Bulls can envision better days ahead of him. But he's also a proven commodity with playoff experience, which attracts both win-now clubs like the Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers, plus those looking to expedite their ascensions like the Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns.
For what it's worth, Smart has expressed a desire to stay in Boston but also kept his options open.
"I want to be in Boston," Smart said, per ESPN.com's Chris Forsberg. "I want to be here. I love this city, I love this team, I love the atmosphere it gives off. ... But there's definitely going to be some factors going into it."
This could come down to economics. While the Celtics have the option to match whatever offer sheet he signs, they might have to keep future costs in mind. Al Horford and Kyrie Irving can both enter free agency next summer (player options), while restricted free agency awaits Terry Rozier in 2019 and Jaylen Brown in 2020.
Aron Baynes Staying Put?
Baynes provided a sturdy interior presence during his first season in Boston, making 79 starts over the regular season and playoffs while averaging a double-double per 36 minutes.
The 31-year-old also played his most prominent role to date with a contender. While he'd been a playoff participant in four previous seasons (winning a title with the San Antonio Spurs in 2014), he compiled more than 65 percent of his postseason minutes during this playoff run alone (389 of 597).
That's in part why league sources told NBC Sports Boston's A. Sherrod Blakely they believe Baynes will re-sign with the Celtics on "a multiyear deal."
While Baynes had previously said staying in Boston would be a "privilege," per MassLive.com's Tom Westerholm, his future there never felt certain.
His impressive season potentially aligned him for a bigger payday. Tack on the fact the Celtics snagged a center on draft night (Robert Williams, a lottery talent who slipped to 27th overall), and it was unclear if Baynes still had a place with the Shamrocks.
While nothing is official before pen gets put to paper, it sounds like there's already clarity on how he'll handle free agency.
Boston Boosts Backcourt Depth
Remember Brad Wanamaker? You're forgiven if you don't.
The one-time Pittsburgh product went undrafted in 2011 following a four-year stint with the Panthers in which he averaged 12 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.9 assists over his final two seasons. He's been mostly hooping overseas ever since, but the Philadelphia native is reportedly heading stateside soon.
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Wanamaker is finalizing a deal to join the Celtics next season. International basketball reporter David Pick provided the particulars on the arrangement:
Wanamaker was a second-team all-Euroleague selection this past season.
He might not have a go-to skill, but his all-around game and experience could potentially push him into the rotation depending on how Boston manages the rest of its backcourt.
"Scouts praise the polish he has developed in seven years in Europe and believe he has the physicality, toughness and intelligence to defend multiple positions at the NBA level," Jay King wrote for The Athletic. "One opposing front-office source informed The Athletic, 'He has grownup's game.'"