NBA Free Agency 2018: Rumors and Predictions for Marcus Smart and More

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJuly 12, 2018

Boston Celtics' Marcus Smart signals during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers in Boston, Sunday, March 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

While the pace of 2018 NBA free agency has slowed, the potential to add valuable pieces remains within reach for patient, shrewd shoppers.

The restricted market features the most intriguing names, such as Clint Capela and Marcus Smart, both critical components of conference finalists. But it's hard to say the unrestricted crop has been picked apart, with the likes of Isaiah Thomas and Wayne Ellington yet to put pen to paper.

Granted, signings that happen now won't carry the same "Wow!" factor as those seen during the hyperactive moments when the talent grab began. But don't be fooled into thinking clubs can no longer help themselves. Whether rounding out starting fives or bulking up bench units, organizations can still strengthen their ranks ahead of the 2018-19 campaign.


Sign-and-Trade Suitors for Smart?

Charles Krupa/Associated Press

Smart's situation was never going to be the easiest to navigate.

As both a restricted free agent and a non-shooting perimeter player in today's pace-and-space Association, there were reasons to wonder how his market would take shape. That process is still playing out, although Yahoo Sports' Jordan Schultz reported clubs are considering making sign-and-trade offers:

Jordan Schultz @Schultz_Report

Source: Several teams - inc the #Grizzlies and #Nets - have inquired about a S-T w/the #Celtics for RFA Marcus Smart, who has already met with Brooklyn. Source also says that Boston has had zero communication or contact w/Smart.

The Memphis Grizzlies look like they might be revisiting their old grit-and-grind style. Smart—the seventh-best defensive point guard by ESPN.com's real plus-minus—would fit the same approach that has already delivered Kyle Anderson, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Jevon Carter to Bluff City.

Smart's defensive prowess should also interest the Brooklyn Nets, who finished 25th in efficiency at that end last season. A stopper of his caliber could make a tremendous impact on a perimeter core filled primarily with offensive-minded players.

But Boston understands Smart's abilities better than anyone. It also knows its league-best defense fared 3.6 points better per 100 possessions when he took the floor.

That's why Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge referred to Smart's free agency as "our priority," per Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe. That's also why Smart's immediate future will almost assuredly be in Boston, even as the hard-nosed guard meets with other clubs.

The Celtics appear to be letting someone else set Smart's price, and it's hard to imagine him finding an offer that would scare them off. Look for him to be rocking green and white again next season, even if he's only back by way of his one-year qualifying offer.

Prediction: Smart signs qualifying offer from Celtics.


Houston Optimistic About Striking Deal with Capela?

David J. Phillip/Associated Press

A recent report on Capela's situation produced the wrong kind of sticker shock.

Sources told ESPN.com's Tim MacMahon that Houston's initial offer fell "in the four-year, $60 million range." MacMahon added Capela has his sights on a four-year, $100 million pact.

That's a gulf even wider than the springy center's 7'4.5" wingspan, and one that indicated the Rockets could have trouble locking up their rim-runner.

But Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reported hearing the Rockets' offer was significantly higher:

Jonathan Feigen @Jonathan_Feigen

Rockets offer to Clint Capela on July 1 was five years, $85 million, two individuals with knowledge of the offer said. With incentives, the deal could be worth $90 million. Rockets remain optimistic sides a deal will be reached. "Absolutely," one of the individuals said.

The latest number seems to mesh better with Houston's public praise of the big man. When Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni is on record saying he'll "be very surprised if [Capela] doesn't become, if not the best center in the league, one of the best," per MacMahon, then falling $40 million short of Capela's target makes no sense.

Capela is only 24 and just engineered a breakout season that saw him post a runner-up finish for the Most Improved Player award and garner All-NBA votes.

His stat sheet was basically a list of career bests, including 13.9 points, 10.8 rebounds, 1.9 blocks and a league-leading 65.2 field-goal percentage. He finished in the 92nd percentile of pick-and-roll screeners, shot 69.3 percent inside the restricted area and knocked 5.1 points off his opponents' shooting percentages inside of six feet.

His motor and vertical spacing enhance D'Antoni's uptempo attack, while Capela's length and mobility help sharpen Houston's switch-happy defense.

He's too valuable to let go, and a lengthy contract should be more than doable if negotiations are as close as Feigen hears.

Prediction: Capela signs long-term deal with Rockets.


Multiple Teams Targeting Swaggy P?

Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Golden State Warriors fans might remember Nick Young's first—and almost surely only—season by the Bay as a disappointment. His shooting efficiency dipped from the prior year (from 43.0 percent to 41.2 overall, 40.4 to 37.7 outside), and his leaky defense made him tough to trust with a regular rotation role.

But external suitors may see something different—like Young's 120-plus triples for the second consecutive season, converting 39.6 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes or hitting 37.9 percent of his looks from the defense-bending area above the break.

Swaggy P can stroke, and it's tough identifying teams that couldn't use another shooter.

So it's little surprise to hear Fox 26's Mark Berman report multiple teams are expressing interest in the 33-year-old gunner:

Mark Berman @MarkBermanFox26

NBA sources: About six teams continue to express interest in free agent guard Nick Young (@NickSwagyPYoung) and the #Rockets continue to be one of those teams.

The Rockets would be a fascinating fit, and not only because they were eliminated by Young's Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.

No team has ever embraced the long ball quite like Houston. Last season's Rockets launched an all-time high 3,470 threes. The previous record-holder was the 2016-17 version with 3,306. No one else has topped the 3,000 attempt mark.

Houston also has two of the game's best gravitational guards in James Harden and Chris Paul, who can warp opposing coverages with their dual passing and scoring threats. The Rockets took 2,122 catch-and-shoot triples, only 20 off the league-leading mark and 42 clear of the third-placed team.

With Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute's departures in free agency, Houston also has vacancies along the wing. The Rockets filled one spot by adding James Ennis, per Yahoo Sports' Shams Charania, but that leaves an opening for Young—and, no, Carmelo Anthony shouldn't take that spot if he comes since he didn't play small forward at all last season.

Prediction: Young signs a one-year, minimum deal with the Rockets.


Statistics used courtesy of Basketball Reference and NBA.com.