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Cold Market No More: Marcus Smart Re-signs With the Celtics

After a long few months filled with negotiations (and the lack thereof), Boston locked down its elite stopper for the next four years

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In May, Marcus Smart said that he was “worth more than $12–14 million” a year. Ultimately, the market decided he was not. Smart, a restricted free agent, re-signed with Boston on Thursday for four years and $52 million ($13 million per year) after no offer sheets were thrown his way — even from Sacramento, which was reportedly highly interested.

Initially, Smart had no intention of taking a hometown discount for the Celtics, who drafted him with the no. 6 overall pick in 2014. Talks with the team went nowhere because the disparity between Smart’s ask and what Boston felt it could manage was too great. Last October, Smart turned down a four-year, $50 million extension, just two milli shy of what he wound up accepting. Smart’s free-agency options this summer fell victim to a league-wide cap-space drought; even Boston president of basketball operations Danny Ainge waited days into free agency to call Smart’s people. Smart was reportedly “hurt and disgusted” by the silence coming from Boston (at the time, a $6.05 million qualifying offer was the only bid from the Celtics) but that eventually broke; by July 11, Ainge was calling Smart “our top priority.” (To be clear, that’s not a compliment when there’s nothing else left on the agenda.)

The Smart contract pushes Boston just past the luxury-tax line, but the deal is still far more advantageous than it is costly. At four seasons played, Smart is the longest-tenured Celtic on the roster; even off the bench, he’s a major part of the team’s identity. The defense would’ve taken a tremendous hit had it lost him, as the team’s point guard depth would have. Having Smart locked in for four years should also be a comfort next summer, when guards Kyrie Irving and Terry Rozier hit free agency.

Ironically, having the security of a longer deal also makes Smart highly tradable because of the affordability of his contract — teams that may not have had the means to extend an offer sheet this summer could certainly attempt to acquire the elite stopper in the future. Before Smart signed, the drop-off on Boston’s payroll was enormous: Gordon Hayward ($31 million per year), Al Horford ($29 million), and Kyrie Irving ($20 million) were followed by rookie Jayson Tatum at $6.7 million. What propelled the Celtics to last season’s surprising playoff run — a deep bench made up of bargain players you had never heard of and guys still on rookie contracts — will eventually give the front office the headache of figuring out how it can afford the best pieces, and which pieces to let walk. Smart could’ve been in that latter group had Boston not caught the luck of a cold market.

An earlier version of this piece incorrectly stated that the Celtics would be subject to the repeater tax this season because of the Marcus Smart deal.