What are the priorities of the Celtics this free agency period? Will Danny Ainge trade for Kawhi Leonard while retaining the young studs in Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Terry Rozier? Has Marcus Smart played his last game in green? Will Aron Baynes re-sign in Boston? Who will take the 13th-15th spots in this stacked roster? We lay out the guide to navigating these free agent priorities.
Priority #1: Re-sign Marcus Smart
You may not like his offensive numbers, but Marcus Smart is a huge piece for this team. His hustle, grit, heart, effort, and defensive skills are few and far between in the NBA. Marcus Smart is cut from a different cloth. The Celtics won quite a few games last season because of his defensive intensity. Just ask James Harden and those Houston Rockets.
We’ve seen what the Celtics were without Smart last season while he recovered from his thumb injury. They simply lacked the grit and defensive intensity that came to be their identity. In all likelihood, if he didn’t step foot on the court during that Eastern Conference first round series, the Celtics would surely have started their offseason early.
The Suns, Mavericks, and Kings are all rumored to be interested in Smart. However, he is a restricted free agent, which means the Celtics can match any offer. If he leaves for another team, it would be a tall task for Semi Ojeleye, Jabari Bird, Kadeem Allen, or Terry Rozier to replace his defensive prowess.
It should go without saying that Danny Ainge better pay him because he deserves every single penny he’s asking for. Smart is an old-school player in today’s NBA, a dying breed.
Priority #2: Re-sign Aron Baynes
Aron Baynes gave a massive boost for the Celtics in the front court this past season. The Australian-born big man provided the muscle down low to help Horford man a defensive wall in the paint. Baynes showed the Celtics that he is a great inside defender and a consistent mid-range shooter. He shocked the world when he revealed his three-point set shot during last years playoffs.
Baynes is a necessary cog in the machine for the Celtics. With Daniel Theis starting his rehab and rookie Robert Williams III still needing to develop, Baynes will provide the veteran presence and mentorship to the young bigs on the roster. Baynes isn’t asking for too much cash and he clearly wants to win a championship. Boston is the perfect destination for him.
Honorable Mention: Trade for Kawhi Leonard?
Trading for Kawhi Leonard should absolutely not be a priority. As great as a player he has shown to be, the Celtics have the chemistry, young talent, and future assets to compete for a championship for the next 5 years and counting. The chemistry this team has worked hard to build would be wasted by trading Jaylen Brown or Jayson Tatum for the San Antonio superstar. Kawhi is about to enter free agency in 2019, and according to many sources, he wants nothing else but to play in Los Angeles. Why would Danny Ainge trade any of the young players on this roster for what can be described as nothing more than a rental?
Instead, an excellent addition for the Celtics would be a veteran player, like Jamal Crawford, who can score at will and could provide yet another spark off the bench for this juggernaut squad.
A Simple Solution
The best scenario for the Celtics this summer is to re-sign Marcus Smart and Aron Baynes while adding more depth to the bench as an insurance policy for the inevitable injury bug. With a healthy group of guys, this team can finally relive the glory days and hang banner number 18 in the rafters.