Who said the NBA offseason is boring? The Boston Celtics endured quite the roller-coaster of a day on Wednesday, being on the verge of pulling off a three-team deal that would net them Kristaps Porzingis before watching it die, only to rally to get another one to go through before Porzingis' opt-in decision deadline hit at midnight. But in the end, Brad Stevens and the C's managed to get the ball across the court.
The initial deal would have seen the Celtics unload Malcolm Brogdon to the Los Angeles Clippers and Danilo Gallinari to the Washington Wizards in exchange for Porzingis, but the Clippers backed out due to concerns over Brogdon's health. So instead, Stevens pivoted to the Memphis Grizzlies, giving them Marcus Smart while sending Gallinari and Mike Muscala to the Wizards in exchange for Porzingis and a pair of first round picks.
There is so much to digest here, whether it be the failed deal, the actual deal, the arrival of Porzingis, or the departure of Smart, that it feels wrong to look at just one aspect of this deal. So with that in mind, here are three initial thoughts on the deal for the Celtics, including why fans shouldn't be freaking out over getting rid of Smart.
3. Celtics made the right call moving Marcus Smart
Just yesterday morning, I outlined why it made more sense for the Celtics to move on from Smart rather than Brogdon. It didn't really seem likely that the front office would agree, especially considering all the rumors Brogdon had found himself involved in. Yet once the Brogdon deal fell apart, Stevens pivoted and ended up sending Smart to Memphis in order to land Porzingis.
It's obviously tough to see Smart go, as he was Boston's longest-tenured player having been with the team for all nine years of his career, but truthfully speaking, this is a deal that needed to be made years ago. Smart's grit is obviously a huge part of what makes him so valuable, but his actual play on the basketball court often left a ton to be desired.
From a pure statistical standpoint, it's not really close when comparing Brogdon and Smart. Smart's defense took a step back last season, and he doesn't come close to Brogdon on offense. His loss in the locker room will be tough, but if Boston is simply able to win more games without him, which they should be able to, chances are the players on this team won't bat an eye at his departure.
2. Kristaps Porzingis makes the Celtics the most versatile team in the NBA
Regardless of your feelings on whether or not Smart should have been traded, you cannot ignore the fact that this move is precisely the one Boston needed to make. The Celtics needed to do something to clear out their logjam of guard depth and shore up their frontcourt. Turns out they did even more than that (we will look at that in a second, though).
Porzingis is coming off the best season of his career (23.2 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 2.7 APG, 49.8 FG%, 38.5 3P%) in which he took on a bigger role with a pretty awful Wizards team. There are valid concerns about this deal, such as Porzingis' injury history, or how he will fare on a legit championship contender, but Boston quickly just became the most versatile team in the NBA.
In the blink of an eye, the Celtics can afford to go small, with Derrick White and Brogdon in the backcourt, or big, with Porzingis and Al Horford roaming the frontcourt, whenever they please. Porzingis will likely play alongside Robert Williams III sparingly given their similar weaknesses on defense, but the C's, when fully healthy, will have the ability to line up whatever way they want to with this flashy new addition to their frontcourt, and that is a huge win in its own right.
1. Brad Stevens continues to deliver for the Celtics
There was certainly some skepticism when Brad Stevens took over as Boston's general manager after the 2021 NBA Playoffs, but as he enters his third offseason in charge of the front office, you have to give him credit. Stevens is remarkably in tune with what the Celtics roster needs, and he isn't afraid to go out there and do what it takes to address those needs.
Brad Stevens pulled off a great move for Brogdon last offseason with the Indiana Pacers, and while he could have been discouraged that the Clippers balked at Brogdon here, he went out and got an even better deal for Smart. Say what you want about losing Smart, but finding a way to bring in two first-round picks, while swapping Brogdon for Smart and Muscala, is an extremely good bit of business, especially when a discouraged Stevens could have just given up after the first deal fell through.
Back when the Celtics traded Isaiah Thomas as part of the Kyrie Irving deal, Stevens gave props to Danny Ainge for having the guts to include the beloved Thomas in that deal. In a sense, Stevens just made his own deal of that caliber by moving Smart, but it was a move that had to be made, and Stevens did it. There's not a chance it was easy, but Stevens continues to deliver for the Celtics by putting the team first, and it's safe to say this is only the beginning of his offseason work now that Boston has a first-round pick in the 2023 NBA Draft on Thursday night.