Celtics GM Danny Ainge Calls Free Agent Marcus Smart Boston's 'Top Priority'July 11, 2018
Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge told reporters Wednesday that Marcus Smart is the team's "top priority" remaining this offseason.
Smart, 24, is a restricted free agent. A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston reported Smart was strongly considering taking his qualifying offer for the 2018-19 season, which would pay him a little over $6 million. That would allow him to enter unrestricted free agency in 2019—when more than half of the league should have ample cap space.
Smart is one of the more interesting free-agent cases in recent memory. By all accounts, he's an all-world defender—perhaps the best on-ball defender in the league, non-Kawhi Leonard edition. Smart is also an historically abysmal shooter. According to Basketball Reference, Smart is the first player since the ABA-NBA merger to attempt at least 2,000 shots and have a field-goal percentage of 36 or worse.
Smart said last month he expects to return to the Celtics.
"To be honest, I do," Smart said, per Chris Forsberg of ESPN.com. "I haven't really put too much thought into the offseason free-agency thing. My No. 1 focus is on my family right now. I got a lot of stuff going on with my mom. She needs all the positive thinking."
The Celtics remain Smart's best fit from a basketball perspective, because they understand him and have a coach in Brad Stevens who plays to his strengths. Stevens has consistently encouraged Smart to shoot despite his woes—something other coaches could perhaps chide him for.
Smart in a different city with a different role and higher expectations could be a recipe for disaster. But getting him back in a Celtics uniform for the duration of his prime would probably be the best course of action for both sides.