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The Celtics don’t have many assets opposing teams want, and that list is even smaller when considering just who Boston would be fine parting with at the NBA trade deadline.
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are not Wholesale Boston Celtics Jerseys going anywhere this week, obviously. Kemba Walker, who is making $34 million this season while not playing back-to-backs, is not going to have many suitors steadfast in his pursuit. And then there are Boston’s bench pieces — Grant Williams, Semi Ojeleye, Tremont Waters, etc. — but we don’t expect teams to be lining up for them, either.
The reality is that three players — veteran guard Marcus Smart, up-and-coming big man Robert Williams and rookie first-rounder Payton Pritchard — probably are the only ones who both would entice other teams and get Boston a solid return.
Smart, specifically, seems to have developed a market for himself. The Atlanta Hawks have “expressed interest” in the longest tenured Celtic, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania. Atlanta, as you may have heard, has been linked to Boston in recent weeks as the Celtics were reported to be among teams kicking the tires on 23-year-old forward John Collins.
It begs the question: Should the Celtics be willing to part with Smart if it means they will acquire Collins?
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Admittedly, this is a tough one.
With Smart, first and foremost are the intangibles, so we’ll start there. He has developed into the team’s vocal leader all while his hustle plays have, at times, made us wish Boston had more players like him. It’s not crazy to believe he has won the Celtics games because of said winning plays. Additionally, his vocal role seems to be one the Celtics sorely need, and you don’t have to look too far for proof. Boston put together a horrendous month-and-a-half stretch without Smart due to a calf strain leading up to the recent All-Star break. The C’s were 5-9 without him before closing the first half of the season with four straight wins.
And his intangibles weren’t the only thing they missed during that absence. The Celtics were abysmal on the defensive end and lacked another shot creator. Trading Smart, 27, for a player like Collins, who wants more shots but needs others to create for him, doesn’t really help the current problem Boston has. Because while each Brown and Tatum have tried to become more of a facilitator, the C’s still are in need of more, especially with Walker’s minutes and absence.
Smart is an extremely unique circumstance due to how Celtics fans tend to feel two completely opposite ways. So while Smart has half the fan base praising his work ethic and the role he fits, there’s the other half who bash him for his inability or hinderance on the offensive end.
That’s the other side of this, and it’s fair, too. Smart has, at times, showed far too much confidence in his shot-making ability and it’s, at times, led to a brutal shot selection. Smart’s 3-pointers or drives through contact have meant less touches for players like Brown, Tatum or even Walker.
But this writer tends to overlook that because the good tends to outweigh the bad. Never mind the fact he’s the heart and soul of the Celtics.
Never say never, we guess, but the Celtics should be hesitant to deal Smart for Collins. If it means throwing a substantial amount of draft capital to accommodate then they should do so. And there’s absolutely no way the Celtics should even consider it unless they can lock up Collins, a restricted free agent after this season, long term.