Just as the Mavs want to build around Luka Doncic, the Celtics seem every bit as eager to surround their star duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown with pieces that complement their games. Boston is receiving a lot of interest in some of their veteran players, and Dallas is among the teams likely making inquiries.
Interestingly, the two teams could make a win-win trade centered around Celtics guard Marcus Smart.
The Mavericks are reportedly interested in Marcus Smart
Surprisingly, the Mavericks are one of the best defensive teams in the NBA. Dallas ranks fourth in defensive rating, routinely keeping opposing teams off balance with their blitz-trap scheme.
The Mavericks reportedly want to get even better on that end of the floor.
Bleacher Report‘s Eric Pincus reported the Mavs have been “linked” to Celtics guard Marcus Smart. The 27-year-old just signed a four-year, $77 million extension in the offseason, but Boston might consider moving him to shake things up and surround Tatum and Brown with different talent.
Smart has plenty to offer. He’s a two-time All-Defensive member capable of guarding multiple positions. The Texan is also making gains as a playmaker, averaging 5.3 assists this season after racking up 5.7 dimes per contest during the 2020-21 campaign.
Dallas’s purported interest in Smart presents the Celtics with a massive opportunity.
The Celtics can gamble on Jalen Brunson’s upside
The Mavericks’ interest in Marcus Smart could deliver the Celtics exactly the kind of player they need.
Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson has made substantial gains in his fourth season. He’s averaging career-high marks across the board, amassing a line of 15.8 points, 5.5 assists, and 3.8 rebounds. Brunson looks like a stronger defender this season, as well, and his shot-creation inside the arc has helped him shoot 50% from the floor.
Brunson seems like the kind of frontcourt partner the Mavericks might hope to pair with Luka Doncic going forward. But he becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer, and Dallas might not feel comfortable offering the four years and $80 million that Pincus reported he is seeking.
The Celtics, on the other hand, could find themselves in a position to sign Brunson if they move Smart. After all, Boston just signed Smart to a deal worth close to $80 million, anyway. Another element for Celtics president Brad Stevens to consider: He could have leverage in a Smart-Brunson swap.
Brunson’s status as an unrestricted free agent means Boston would take on some risk in this trade hypothetical. That means Stevens can probably demand draft capital.
The Celtics could construct a package of Smart and Payton Pritchard (who’d give the Mavs more of a pure point feel off the bench) in exchange for Brunson, Maxi Kleber’s non-guaranteed contract, and a 2022 first-round pick, if not more draft compensation. Alternatively, the Mavs could try to pry Dennis Schroder away if they can add a small filler salary and potentially give up more capital.
It seems like a high price for the Mavs, and it could rob the Celtics of their soul. But both teams have to pay up if they want to make impactful moves at the NBA trade deadline.
Why a deal makes sense for both teams
Jalen Brunson’s progression makes him look like an ideal fit next to Tatum and Brown. He creates for himself off the dribble and is a willing screener away from the ball. Although he’s shooting an underwhelming percentage from beyond the arc this season (32.8%), he made 40.5% of his triples in 2020-21.
Boston had success with a healthy Kemba Walker at the point. Brunson is a similar archetype to Walker in the sense that he can create separation from his defender and make plays for himself or teammates. Additionally, Kleber gives the Celtics a stretch-4 and is off the books after this season, negating potential tax issues. Not to mention, there’s a distinct possibility of acquiring draft picks.
The Mavericks, meanwhile, have to decide if Smart is enough of an upgrade. His shooting inefficiency doesn’t help Dallas solve its woes in that department.
Still, Smart’s defensive versatility could prove invaluable to an elite defensive team, and he’s still a capable playmaker. Plus, Pritchard could make for a depth guard and likely a better option than anyone on Dallas’ current roster. The Mavs might also try to move Dorian Finney-Smith and Dwight Powell for more shooting.
Many Celtics fans might feel hesitant about trading Smart because he’s become so synonymous with the words “effort” and “leadership.” Similarly, trading Brunson when his stock is rising could make the Mavericks wary.
However, both teams need to shake things up before the NBA trade deadline, and there’s room for the Mavs and Celtics to come away from this kind of trade feeling content.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.