Should The Celtics Trade Marcus Smart?

Nov 15, 2015; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) reacts after being called for a technical foul in action against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the second quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 15, 2015; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) reacts after being called for a technical foul in action against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the second quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports /

After two underwhelming seasons with the Boston Celtics, what does the future hold for Marcus Smart?

I was excited when the Boston Celtics drafted Marcus Smart with the sixth pick in the 2014 draft. I believed that regardless of how he fit in with the team he was the best available at that point in the draft. I believed that he would be an immediate impact player and, if nothing else, he would prove to be a valuable trade token.

The 6-4, 220 pound point guard was dominant in the NCAA. In his two years at Oklahoma State University he averaged 16.7 point, 5.8 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 3 steals per game, all while shooting just above 40 percent from the field. Those are type of numbers that really jump out at you and get you excited about a prospect.

Obviously I didn’t expect anything near those numbers from him when he entered the NBA. However, I always thought that eventually he would be able to find his niche and display similar stat lines. Now, I’m not so sure.

With two years in the books for Smart, he hasn’t shown anything remotely close to the level of play he displayed while in college. In my opinion, he hasn’t shown anything that even suggests he’s capable of developing into a role beyond a backup point guard for the Celtics. So why is this?

The Minutes?

People who are still hopeful that Smart may develop into a player worthy of a sixth pick, might argue that he hasn’t had an opportunity to prove his worth yet. My rebuttal to that argument would be that he has had plenty of opportunity, he just hasn’t capitalized. In between trades, injuries and uncertainty, Smart has had ample time to prove that he can be the player the Celtics thought they were drafting.

In his first two seasons he averaged 27 minutes per game. As a rookie trying to prove yourself, you really can’t ask for more than that type of playing time. Although he averaged the same amount of minutes in both of his first two seasons, his field goal percentage actually declined in his second year. Smart went from shooting 36 percent as a rookie to 34 percent in his second season. This is not a huge decrease, but certainly a trend in the wrong direction.

Still Developing?

Some come from the school of thought that Smart is still developing. I am aware that the third year is typically a big year for most NBA players, in terms of improvement. However, I just don’t see Smart making a huge jump this season. As I pointed out, his field-goal percentage is putrid and getting worse. I’m not sure he’ll ever become a consistent shooter.

One thing that I really liked about his game in college was his aggressiveness when driving and ability to draw fouls. We have not seen that from him yet in the NBA. In college, he averaged over seven free-throw attempts per game. In the NBA, he’s only managed to get to the line slightly over twice a game, and even when he gets there he is only a 70 percent free throw shooter.

35 percent from the field, 70 percent from the line and only two free-throw attempts per game is not indicative of a good scorer. As long as his shooting remains shaky, defenses will sag off. This will make it harder for him to drive and either get fouled or facilitate which limits his value. Smart hasn’t shown us any evidence that his shooting will improve. Hoping for him to develop a consistent shot seems like a gamble at this point.

Where Do The Celtics Go From Here?

By far the most valuable aspect of Smart’s game is his defensive abilities. He is undeniably one of the best perimeter defenders in the league. Defense, especially on the perimeter, is a commodity in the NBA. However, the Celtics already have two proven lockdown perimeter defenders in Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley, with possibly another on the way in rookie Jaylen Brown. So although defense is paramount, do the Celtics really need a defensive specialist like Smart?

I think Smart would be more valuable to another team that doesn’t have the type of defenders that the Celtics already have. So I would like to see him traded soon, while is stock is still somewhat valuable. I truly believe that Terry Rozier is due for a breakout and will do an admirable job as backup point guard.

Now would be the ideal time to trade Smart, as he’s losing trade value by the minute. Even as he is now, he hardly possesses the allure to make a deal by himself. However, when you couple him with another player/draft pick I think it becomes a tough deal to turn down for teams in need of a defensive stopper.

Trade Scenarios

Let me just start by saying that this is purely speculation on my part. Currently there is no indication that the Celtics would be looking to deal Smart away. Then again, does anyone ever really  know what Danny Ainge is up to?

In my opinion, the Celtics’ weakest position is power forward. Amir Johnson is solid, but he’s been in the league for 10 years already and hasn’t shown that he can be anything more than just solid. Now is an interesting time to target power forwards for trades. Let’s look into some trade scenarios.

SEND: Marcus Smart and Amir Johnson – RECEIVE: Greg Monroe

I think it’s really a no-brainer. The Bucks have shown disinterest in having Greg Monroe as a major part of their offense. The Bucks could also use a lockdown perimeter defender like Smart. The Celtics would have a much more imposing starting unit with Monroe at power forward rather than Amir Johnson.

Related Story: Why the Celtics Should Trade for Greg Monroe

SEND: Marcus Smart and 2017 First Round Pick – RECEIVE: Nikola Mirotic

This one is intriguing because I feel like Nikola Mirotic is being undervalued in Chicago. Even with all of the injuries their big men suffered last season, Mirotic only managed to average 24.9 minutes per game. The Bulls are very deep at the power forward position with Taj Gibson and Bobby Portis, so Mirotic could be looking at more of the same next season with a restricted minutes load.

In Boston, Mirotic could thrive under Brad Stevens‘ team defense approach. Also, his shooting ability at that position would be greeted with open arms. Mirotic is also an underrated rebounder and passer, as well.

SEND: Marcus Smart, 2017 First Round Pick – RECEIVE: Aaron Gordon

After Aaron Gordon‘s breakout season last year, I’m not sure the Magic would be looking to deal him. However, this is the same organization that traded Victor Oladipo for Serge Ibaka. In the front court rotation they currently have four starter-caliber players fighting for two spots.

The trade for Ibaka could mean that the Magic aren’t looking for ways to develop Gordon at power forward. I did see some rumors that Gordon may be shifting to play some small forward this season. I don’t believe he will excel at that position at this point in his career due to his mediocre ball-handling skills.

Gordon would be a great fit for the Celtics at the power forward position due to his versatility on the offensive end and his ability to guard multiple positions. Now would be the time to strike to get Gordon because I believe after next season he will be locked up.

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As I stated earlier, now is the time to deal Smart if the Celtics want a return on their diminishing investment. Other teams might still see the potential in him, but I don’t. The Celtics simply just don’t need Smart anymore. The team already has a plethora of lockdown defenders and solid backup point guard waiting.