Celtics' Report Card for Most Impactful Offseason Decisions

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistAugust 26, 2021

Celtics' Report Card for Most Impactful Offseason Decisions

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    Steven Ryan/Getty Images

    Fireworks weren't in the cards for the Boston Celtics during the 2021 NBA offseason, but new president of basketball operations Brad Stevens still had plenty on his plate.

    He traded away Kemba Walker and brought back Al Horford. He acquired Josh Richardson, extended Marcus Smart and Robert Williams III and signed Dennis Schroder.

    There might not be a spotlight-stealing move in the mix, but the Celtics already had the marquee covered by Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. A quiet but productive offseason would suffice, and Stevens seemingly accomplished that.

    Let's see how well he did by grading his three most impactful decisions.

Trading for Al Horford

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    The Celtics have had a Horford-sized hole on the interior ever since the versatile big man bounced out of Boston in 2019 free agency. Having Horford himself come back to cover up that void makes a lot of sense.

    Boston needed more stability with Walker failing to shake a nagging left knee injury and Williams encountering his own injury issues. Horford has long been a dependable source of rock solid defense, slick passing and enough outside shooting to keep the offensive end properly spaced.

    His All-Star days are long gone, but he can star in a complementary role. Boston's hole has sometimes lagged behind the sum of its parts, and Horford's versatility can help bring the roster together. Working in tandem with Williams and Enes Kanter up front, Horford can help ensure the Celtics have frontcourt combinations for just about every matchup.

    As for the trade itself, it's a bit of a bummer Boston had to tack on a first-round pick to turn the 31-year-old Walker into the 35-year-old Horford, but the Shamrocks at least come out of the exchange in better financial shape.

    Grade: B

Extending Marcus Smart

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    Steven Ryan/Getty Images

    Smart's traditional stats don't seem to measure up to his new four-year, $76.5 million extension. That's not the salary typically attached to a veteran guard with career averages of 10.2 points, 4.2 assists and 37.6 percent shooting.

    But appreciating Smart often requires looking beyond the box score and noticing the subtle things he does to help improve his team's chances of winning. That's maybe easier to see for a coach than an executive, so it makes sense this commitment came from Boston's coach-turned-executive.

    "It is not a coincidence that every team he's played on has been in the playoffs, with several series wins throughout the years," Stevens said in a statement. "He adds to winning on both ends of the floor, and competes with a grit and toughness that few match."

    Smart still probably needs to perk up his shooting and playmaking for the pay rate to really work, but his defense and intangibles alone get him in the ballpark. If other clubs peg Smart's worth where the Celtics set it, this could also make the guard more marketable should Boston sniff out a trade for a star.

    Grade: B+

Adding Dennis Schroder

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    Free agency could not have played out much worse for Schroder, as he went from hoping for a nine-figure contract to signing a seven-figure deal with the Celtics.

    But his loss is Boston's massive gain.

    He probably isn't a $20 million player, but he's certainly worth more than the $5.9 million the Celtics gave him. Since the start of 2016-17, he's been good for 17.4 points and 5.3 assists per night. Those are starter's numbers, even though he didn't have a starting gig in two of those five seasons.

    No matter if he earns a starting spot or functions as Boston's sixth man, he can outperform his pay rate to a comical degree. He pressures opponents on both ends of the floor and can thrive in a complementary offensive role, especially if he's splashing 38.5 percent of his threes like he did in 2019-20.

    Grade: A+

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