LAS VEGAS – While no deal is imminent, two NBA officials whose teams have had some level of interest in Marcus Smart are getting a strong sense that he will sign the $6.1 million qualifying offer made by the Celtics and become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2019.
His restricted free agent status has been the main reason why teams have been reluctant to give Smart an offer sheet, fearful that the Celtics will match it, according to one official.
Recent reports indicate Smart has not been pleased by the lack of reaching out by the Celtics to get a deal done.
From the Celtics’ perspective, they have maintained throughout this process that they want to have Smart back next season, but they want to do it relative to what his market value is.
And right now, because he has yet to receive an offer sheet from another team, the Celtics are waiting for that shoe to drop and then proceed. The other issue for the Celtics is the luxury tax, something they would be extremely close to exceeding depending on how much they pay Smart.
Celtics ownership has shown in past years a willingness to exceed the luxury tax if it meant the difference between being a title contender or not.
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And there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that having Smart back next season will strengthen Boston’s chances at getting to the NBA Finals. But the Celtics don’t want to start the repeater luxury-tax clock sooner than they have to, or significantly overpay, which is why they are just as eager as Smart and his camp are to see what another team is willing to pay for the 6-foot-4 guard's services.