Marcus Smart, who previously proclaimed himself as the heart of the Boston Celtics, is set to become a restricted free agent in the upcoming offseason. According to Jackie MacMullan of ESPN, the Celtics have already discussed an extension with Smart, but he is reportedly demanding a huge payday. The 24-year-old point guard has a strong belief that he is worth more than $12-14 million per year, making it unlikely for the Celtics to bring him back this summer.
"To be honest, I'm worth more than 12-14 million," Smart said. "Just for the things I do on the court that don't show up on the stat sheet. You don't find guys like that. I always leave everything on the court, every game. Tell me how many other players can say that."
According to Frank Urbina of HoopsHype, the Brooklyn Nets could try to steal Marcus Smart from the Celtics in the upcoming free agency period. The Nets are known as a team who make "big-time offers to good-but-not-great restricted free agents" in the past offseasons, including Allen Crabbe and Tyler Johnson in 2016, and Otto Porter, Jr. in 2017. It won't be a surprise if they do the same on Smart this summer.
As Urbina noted, the Nets could offer a four-year deal that could pay Smart $15 million annually. Brooklyn's offer sheet could put the Celtics in a huge dilemma. If they won't match the offer, Boston could lose one of the players who had a big role in their recent achievements in the playoffs. If they decide to bring him back, it will have a huge effect on their salary cap flexibility moving forward.However, it's highly unlikely that the Celtics will match the Nets' potential offer sheet. Even if Marcus Smart leaves, they still have Terry Rozier and Shane Larkin to backup Kyrie Irving next season. Rozier has already proven his capability to serve as starting point guard, making it easier for the Celtics to let Smart go. The Celtics will undeniably miss Smart's defense, but Coach Brad Stevens could find a way to fill his absence on the team.
If the Nets succeed in signing Smart, he will be joining D'Angelo Russell, Jeremy Lin, and Spencer Dinwiddie in Brooklyn's backcourt. His addition may not make the Nets a legitimate playoff contender in the Eastern Conference, but Brooklyn could become more competitive and fun to watch next season. Smart could serve as a mentor for Russell and Dinwiddie to help them become better perimeter defenders.