I think we can all agree the Celtics won’t be raising banner 18 in the immediate future, and more likely than not the 2014-15 NBA season will result in another lottery pick come June, regardless of how ardently Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley & Co. argue the contrary. It’s been a year since Danny Ainge traded Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Nets, launching the process of stockpiling draft picks and cap-friendly contracts. Since the Celtics failed to cash in those commodities in exchange for fireworks this summer, this season’s preview will have a Wyc Grousbeck theme, focusing on the hodgepodge of C’s pieces in a series we’ll call Asset Management. Next up: Marcus Smart.
We can’t blame Smart for the Celtics landing the sixth overall overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft. It would’ve be nice to score Joel Embiid and Dario Saric, as the 76ers did, or Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton, as the Magic did. But the Celtics had the sixth and 17th picks — not third and 12th or fourth and 10th — so they’re banking on Smart and James Young being the best available talents at those slots, and so far at least we have no reason to believe otherwise.
The more we hear about Smart, the better fit he seems in Boston. He’s a defensive bulldog on the court, a likable character off it and a leader in both arenas, all traits the Celtics have sorely lacked since Kevin Garnett‘s departure.
If nothing else, Smart completes quite the defensive triumvirate in the backcourt. With him and Avery Bradley each capable of hounding the ball-handler, Rajon Rondo is free to gamble while defending the NBA’s dearth of off-guards — or, better yet, Smart and Bradley annoy the hell out of everyone, and they all rub off on Marcus Thornton — providing the Celtics a puncher’s chance on that end of the floor, despite the absence of a paint-protecting frontcourt.
Offensively, Smart’s Summer League stats (29.4 FG%, 25.7 3P%) didn’t do much to quell concerns about his shooting, although Rondo and Bradley have illustrated the ability to improve in that area, even as criticism persists. Jump shots can improve. Defensive effort, generally, doesn’t, and that’s why Smart went sixth and Young 17th.
Thus begins Smart’s future on a franchise with a wild lottery history that includes Len Bias, Eric Montross, Ron Mercer, Chauncey Billups, Paul Pierce, Jerome Moiso and Joe Johnson. One tragic, one sublime, and all gone too soon in one way or another. That’s why they call it a lottery, I guess. It’s a crapshoot, sometimes it’s just crap, and we don’t know well Danny Ainge rolls the dice since he’s traded every other top-10 pick he’s ever had.
It’s also not Smart’s fault his career will forever be linked to Rondo’s. If we’re being honest with ourselves, using the sixth overall pick in a loaded draft on a player who mans the same position as their captain, only All-Star and soon-to-be free agent leaves the Celtics with two choices going forward: 1) Trade Rondo and keep Smart, or 2) Keep Rondo and trade Smart. Both could be a mistake, either could be brilliant, but one will happen, because Ainge’s two most valuable players are both point guards, and either could fetch a hefty sum in return.
Asset Rating: A
This has been another edition of Asset Management. Check out more Celtics player valuations below.
Asset Management: Jeff Green’s Celtics future
Asset Management: Tyler Zeller’s Celtics future
Asset Management: Kelly Olynyk’s Celtics future