BOSTON -- Mission accomplished.
The Celtics went into the offseason planning to bring back all their core players from last season’s squad, which came within a victory of getting to the NBA Finals.
The last bit of business is now taken care of with Marcus Smart coming to terms on a four-year, $52 million contract.
A restricted free agent this summer, Smart was unable to secure an offer sheet from another team. The Celtics had maintained all along they would match any offer within a reasonable amount.
They never put a specific number on how high they would go, but most league executives believed a team would have to sign Smart to an offer sheet of at least $15 million in order for the Celtics to allow him to walk.
Signing Smart solidifies what’s shaping up as one of the deepest backcourts in the NBA. All-Star Kyrie Irving and Jaylen Brown are the starters, with Smart and Terry Rozier coming off the bench.
There were moments during negotiations when Smart was reportedly disappointed and frustrated by the lack of attention the Celtics were paying him through the process. But Boston maintained all along that re-signing him was its No. 1 priority, and that position never changed.
Even when Smart’s return was far from a given, the Celtics still had a roster that was viewed by many as one of the best in the NBA. When LeBron James left Cleveland to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers, that instantly catapulted the Celtics to the top of the Eastern Conference. (Story continues below.)
At 1:26 mark: A. Sherrod Blakey, Kyle Draper, Gary Tanguay and Trenni Kusnierek discuss the Smart deal prior to its finalization
Now with Smart set to return, Boston’s position among its Eastern Conference brethren remains strong as ever, even with the Raptors trading for two-way standout Kawhi Leonard.
The Celtics' journey towards the NBA Finals will involve them leaning on a variety of players with a varying amount of strengths and skills. That's why re-signing Smart was so important.
The recipe for postseason success is an unpredictable one; it requires having as much elite versatility on the roster as possible. That's what Smart brings: An ability to impact games when there’s a great need for toughness defensively, which is often in the closing moments of matchups.
That’s why you’ll often find Smart on the floor in close games, regardless of how well or woeful he might be shooting that night.
Because as much as the analytics folks of the world would love to see better numbers by Smart when he’s on the floor, it always comes back to winning games for the 6-foot-4 guard.
And as much of a head-scratcher he may be when it comes to shooting, he never loses sight of the ultimate goal -- winning -- which is why Boston’s quest towards Banner 18 is even more alive and well with his return.