Marcus Smart Leaving the Boston Celtics Proves the Business Side of the NBA Can Be Devastatingly Cruel
If you’re a Boston Celtics fan who went to bed before 10 p.m. on Wednesday, you had to live with losing Malcolm Brogdon as part of a potential Kristaps Porzingis trade. When you woke up Thursday morning, you likely felt as if your heart had been ripped out.
Brogdon, the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year, would have been tough enough, but after some last-minute tinkering, it’s veteran guard Marcus Smart who’s leaving town. Smart was the longest-tenured Celtics player on the roster and the heart and soul of the team. For Celtics fans, it’s a tough pill to swallow, and it shows the business side of the NBA can be tough.
Marcus Smart is now with the Memphis Grizzlies
Marcus Smart came to the Boston Celtics as the sixth overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. His run in Boston came to an end late Wednesday night when the Celtics dealt him to the Memphis Grizzlies as part of a three-team trade that also included the Washington Wizards, according to ESPN.
The Celtics received Porzingis, a versatile 7-foot-3 center/forward, the Grizzlies’ 25th pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, and a top-four-protected 2024 first-round pick (Golden State Warriors). The Celtics sent Smart and the 35th pick to Memphis. Boston also parted ways with reserve Mike Muscala and Danilo Gallinari, who missed all of last year with a torn ACL. Both of those players went to the Wizards. Guard Tyus Jones went from Memphis to Washington.
Rumors swirled all day about Porzingis making his way to Boston, but the key piece had been Brogdon, not Smart. At that point, it was the Los Angeles Clippers — not the Grizzlies — who were the third team. Brogdon reportedly was headed to LA. After that deal fell through, the Celtics and Wizards found Memphis as the third team.
Losing Brogdon would have been tough for Boston fans. He unselfishly came to town during an offseason trade with the Indiana Pacers. He knew he could start for most teams in the league, but he agreed to be the leader of Boston’s second unit. Brogdon helped turn Boston into one of the deepest teams in the league and was rewarded for his efforts with the Sixth Man of the Year honor.
The Smart trade happened just before a midnight deadline for Porzingis to opt in to his $36 million player option for the upcoming season.
Smart’s departure shows how the business side of the NBA always wins
Losing Smart is tough for Celtics fans. It’s hard to think of a Boston player who consistently gave his all, dove for loose balls, took charges, and bled green more than Smart. You may have to go back to Larry Bird to find someone who was the true heartbeat of the team.
Several fans and media members took to social media Thursday to express how much Smart meant to the Celtics.
“Glad I went to bed before news of the Celtics trading Marcus Smart broke because I’m not sure I’d have slept much,” Celtics fan Dan Kelley tweeted. “Marcus Smart has been my favorite player since he was drafted in 2014, and Boston made the playoffs every year since. Regardless of return, I’m very disappointed.”
Kelley isn’t alone. Nobody brought it every single night more than Smart. His intensity was unmatched. But here’s the thing with the Smart trade: The Celtics got better — at least on paper.
The Celtics needed size. Although Porzingis plays plenty around the perimeter, he’s 7-foot-3 and averaged 8.4 rebounds last season. Porzingis had arguably his best season last year, averaging a career-high 23.2 points. He’s also a terrific foul shooter (82.7% in his career).
His biggest question mark is health. He’s only played more than 60 games in a season once in the last eight years. That came last season when he appeared in 65 games.
The Celtics had an abundance of guards and needed to make a move. Smart clearly wasn’t the one they preferred to trade. In order to get better, there needed to be sacrifice. The Celtics will be more balanced and more talented, but they lost their leader. The Celtics are taking a chance with Porzingis, but that chance comes at the expense of Boston’s heart and soul.