There have been a lot of great days in Celtics history: The day they won their first title. The day they won their 17th title. The day they got the 76ers to draft Markelle Fultz. The day a brave fan first yelled at Ben Simmons to shoot a 3, coward.
June 18, 2018 might not be on the same level as any of those, but damn, it was good. I really only needed to see two things happen this offseason: for the C's to keep restricted free agent Marcus Smart and for Kawhi Leonard to end up anywhere for Philadelphia.
Check and check. What a day.
Actually, I suppose the stars getting healthy would also be a biggie for the Celtics.
If Brad Stevens’ intel was accurate, both Kyrie Irving AND Gordon Hayward will be playing 5-on-5 basketball with no limitations within about 2-3 weeks.— Marc D'Amico (@Marc_DAmico) July 18, 2018
What a day.
Let's focus on the Kawhi thing. If he had gone to the 76ers and made friends with some of those goofballs -- enough that he'd want to re-sign at least -- the Celtics would be in trouble. Kyrie Irving could theoretically leave in free agency next summer, and a big three of Kawhi, Simmons and Embiid would likely trump a Kyrie-less Celtics roster longterm.
But that's not going to happen. Kawhi is in Toronto, perhaps for a year before he goes to the Lakers. In the immediate future, the Raptors are no threat to the Celtics, or perhaps even the 76ers. Longterm, there's a good chance he won't even be in the Eastern Conference.
So the Celtics' path to the NBA Finals remains clear. As long as everyone -- or really even mostly everyone -- is healthy, they'll get there easily.
A big part of that will be due to them being the deepest team in the conference, a status that should remain with Marcus Smart banging out a four-year deal with the Celtics for $52 million. (He officially signed on June 19, yes, but the two sides got close to the finish line on June 18.)
It wouldn't have been the end of the world if Smart just came back on his $6.1 million qualifying offer and then walked in free agency next summer, but paying more to have him around for what could be championship runs should have always been the better option.
Yes, the Celtics are kind of negotiating against themselves because Smart is an RFA and hasn't received an offer sheet, but if after Dante Exum signed for three years at $11 million per, didn't it make sense for Smart to get something similar?
So Smart got four years and $52 million. That's $2 million more a year to have him for four years. More importantly, it isn't the $16 million some team could have given him to get the Celtics to either overpay or walkaway. Smart isn't one of the Celtics' five best players, but he's one of the better defenders in the league. The Celtics seemingly don't have to pay through the nose to get him for four more years, so they'd be smart to wrap something up for the numbers that have been reported.
Also, a picture surfaced of Jayson Tatum cropping Stephen A. Smith out of a picture with Denzel Washington. What a day.