it is easy. Smart value will never be higher. The 28-year-old has been named the NBA Most Valuable Defensive Player. His career averaged 5.9 assists. It is on a reasonable contract.
Yes, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown need to improve ball safety, but they also need a goalkeeper who can take some of the play-making burden off them in times of crisis.
Throwing in a 40-16 blizzard of the brilliant fourth quarter, the Celtics hit Golden State in Game 1 — mostly watching Smart from the bench — their offensive smashed like the 1929 stock market lately. In Games 2 through 6, the Celtics fired 38.1 percent from the field and made 28 assists and 18 turns in the fourth inning.
Smart reported a fourth-quarter net worth minus 14.8 in the finals, the worst rating of any Celtic. His fourth-quarter offensive rating (points scored per 100 possessions) was 105.8, the lowest rating for any rotating player other than Grant Williams (97.7).
“I think we need more playmaking,” Stevens said Tuesday. “There is no doubt that in this league, the more players who can play offensively, the better.
“I think the challenge again is everything you do around the margins of our roster – we have a unique identity, we have uniqueness in our size and our ability to be versatile across the board. We have to take all that into consideration when we add to our team. If we can sustain that. And add some gaming industry, you’ll want to do that without a doubt.”
Stevens’ problem is that he criticizes his team’s lack of game-making while investing heavily in terms of resources at the base.
He granted Smart a four-year, $77 million contract extension in his latest off-season. The Celtics paid a heavy price to buy Derek White, charging Josh Richardson and Romeo Langford, in the first round this year, and the San Antonio right to swap the first rounds in 2028. Payton Pritchard is a first-round pick.
White is intelligent, light without emotional fluctuation and an ever-present characteristic. Disagree? White finished third in the league with a draw with 25.
“Playing industry, shooting industry, and defense, we don’t have a lot of interruption when Marcus comes out, and [White] coach Im Odoka said after Wyatt’s 21-point performance in the first game.
The finals also proved that the Celtics’ most influential defensive player is Robert Williams.
Saying goodbye to Smart can return a payoff that allows Celtics to reallocate their menu resources.
Smart may be part of the package that brings Malcolm Brogdon of the Indiana Pacers. Stevens could call his old boss, Danny Inge, in Utah and ask about a deal involving veteran point guard Mike Conley. Will the Atlanta Hawks, desperate for daring, be willing to give up one of their game-making wings, the outdoor shooting wings?
The Celtics could gamble that Tatum, 24, and Brown, 25, are thriving enough as ball coaches to provide the much needed playmaking upgrade with Smart on board.
But there’s reason to be skeptical (Bob Cousy), the dean of the Rangers.
Smart averaged 3.2 turnovers per game in the Finals. His turn numbers weren’t far behind a struggling Tatum (3.8) or Brown (3.3), whose every turn was met with fanfare as if Kyrie Irving’s style was trampling on the team crest.
In the finals, Smart’s pass percentage was 8.6 while Brown’s was 9.8. Tatum advances the way at 13.1.
In the last five minutes, trailing or leading by 5 points or less, Smart shot 2 for 14 overall and 0 for 6 of 3 with two assists and two times in qualifying. And his shot ratio (14.3) was the worst among 19 players who played at least 20 minutes.
The Championship team requires more stability, emotional poise, and personal accountability from its offensive leader.
Smart had small meltdowns due to her management in games 5 and 6. The fateful attacking collapse of Game 4 prompted Celtics Brown to say, “It’s on our veteran players to keep us organized in those moments.”
When Stevens was asked what it would take to replicate the identity and spirit that propelled Greene to two championship wins, he said, “I think it takes selflessness. I think it takes self-awareness.”
These are not hallmarks of intelligence. Don’t confuse giving up your body in court with selfless and self-centered behavior. Remember, no one has toiled more than the die-hard Dennis Rodman.
Stevens understands that team success contains a very “fragile” formula. He is careful not to disturb her.
“Changing the important pieces in the collection does not mean that it may not completely take your identity and change it in an unsuccessful direction,” he said. “It’s a very fine line.”
There is a risk in moving a piece like SMART. But there’s also a risk in just messing around the edges.
If Chris Middleton had been healthy for the Milwaukee Bucks, this same group might have bounced back in the second round. If three games of Jimmy Butler pass in Game Seven of the Conference Finals, the Greens are watching the Finals on TV.
Staying the same might not cut it for the Celtics, despite sending a team that went 42-17 in the last five months.
The Celtics made their stride, but faltered and collapsed before the finish line. It can’t be discounted.
Neither of them can move Smart if they move Celtics closer to an NBA title.
Christopher L. Jasper is a columnist for The Globe. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter Tweet embed.