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The Sports Daily > Red's Army
Report: Smart may not get more than the mid-level exception

Marcus Smart’s agent, Happy Walters, seems to have completely misjudged his client’s situation.

According to Ben Rohrbach, Smart was promised a major payday by his agent.

“Happy Walters will mess up Marcus Smart as he did with Nerlens Noel,” a rival agent said. “He has promised him $57-60 million for three years — not happening for a good backup.”

That rival agent seems to be right… Brian Windhorst, reporting on the NBA’s sudden money crunch after a couple of summers of wild spending, says Smart might not see half that.

In the 2015-16 season, the Boston Celtics assembled an impressive 48-34 season behind the play of a collection of gritty perimeter players. Two of them were Evan Turner and Marcus Smart. Turner was a bit more effective as an offensive creator, Smart more of a defensive grinder. But they played similar minutes and offered similar stats.

Turner, who had the fortune of being an unrestricted free agent that summer, got a $17.5 million per season deal from the Blazers. This summer, Smart, who will be a restricted free agent, might face an environment in which role players could struggle to field outside offers above the $8.8 million midlevel exception, according to multiple league executives.

Smart is getting screwed by, among other things, bad timing. While it’s never a great time to be a restricted free agent, this is an especially bad summer for it. Smart would have needed to vastly improve his play to get an offer big enough to be too rich for the Celtics. Instead, his production has been mostly flat for the past few years. While he’s still young player finishing up his rookie contract, it’s hard to assume he’ll improve significantly moving forward. He’s spent three of his four years being pretty much this kind of player.

So instead of cashing in the drunken GM spending spree, Smart is going to end up being a free agent spectator. Smart’s a nice player off the bench and he can change games with his insane drive on the defensive end, but that’s not a guy who’ll get starter money.

The Celtics can simply float that they’ll match offers for Smart and teams won’t bother tying up cap space to present an offer sheet. Even if they decide to use their exceptions, $8.8 million per year is affordable for Smart, especially if the Lakers pick doesn’t convey. 

This is not an enviable position for Smart or his agent. Walters has botched Noel and Smart’s futures, failing to read the market correctly and secure long-term deals for his guys. An agent’s job is to look at everyone’s cap sheet, understand the Mozgovs, Turners, and Noahs of the world were the result of an aberration, and that money didn’t exist moving forward. Yes, his job is to get his client the most money possible… and maybe he can find one team to get to an eight-figure offer… but it seems pretty clear that he’s left his client in maybe the worst position possible. It’s hard for me to think Walters’ track record will earn him a lot more NBA business.

As for actual basketball, the Celtics have been able to maximize Smart. Having him for a few years as a relatively affordable defensive menace who makes “winning plays” seems palatable for the Celtics… providing his recent sparring match with a hotel decoration hasn’t soured them on his future.

Keeping Smart while avoiding the luxury tax next season is probably the top option for Boston. At this price, they can probably do that.