The 2023 NBA Draft has threatened to provoke trades. While attention was on others, the day before the Draft was all about the Boston Celtics and Kristaps Porzingis. After an eventful few hours, the Porzingis Celtics trade was eventually complete.
Boston ultimately partnered with the Memphis Grizzlies and Washington Wizards to complete a three-team deal. Marcus Smart is heading to Memphis. The Grizzlies have sent two first-round picks to the Celtics.
This was an adjustment, however, after an initial three-team trade between the Celtics, Clippers and Wizards seemed to be getting close. Los Angeles was set to Malcolm Brogdon, but ended up taking no part in the deal. An opportunity was missed to shift Marcus Morris‘ contract.
Details of Porzingis Celtics trade & Smart moving to Memphis
- Celtics receive: Kristaps Porzingis, 23rd pick in 2023 Draft, Warriors’ 2024 first-round pick
- Grizzlies receive: Marcus Smart
- Wizards receive: Tyus Jones, Danilo Gallinari, Mike Muscala, 35th pick in 2023 Draft
We’ve put together our analysis of this three-team trade alone with our Smart and Porzingis trade grades.
Celtics nail their pivot — B+
Giving up Brogdon for Porzingis (and his $36 million player option) would have been a so-so deal for the Celtics. Sure, Brogdon has injury concerns, but so does Porzingis. The Latvian’s fit with Robert Williams III and Al Horford wouldn’t have been a great allocation of resources. Arguably, it’s still not ideal.
The difference here, though, is that Boston has landed two other firsts. Thursday’s first-round selection could be packaged for a move up, it could be used for veteran help or it could be a way to pick up a cost-controlled rotation player (think Christian Braun). Plus, as much as Smart was the heart of the Celtics team, he isn’t coming off his best year, and his offensive decision making is too often a liability.
Derrick White, Brogdon and Payton Pritchard is a more than solid guard rotation. Jaylen Brown is still going to play a fair bit of the two in bigger lineups. Perhaps, this is Brad Williams’ way of nudging Joe Mazzulla towards using two bigs after the rookie head coach heavily favoured spacing over size in 2022-23.
Porzingis, of course, provides another floor spacer. He can protect the rim, attack closeouts and has markedly improved at punishing smaller defenders. His presence could help free up the Celtics’ offense which too often stagnates in the clutch.
Grizzlies crave leadership — B-
It’s no secret the Grizzlies have wanted some veteran leadership. Beyond Ja Morant‘s pair of suspensions, reporting has often questioned the maturity of this Grizzlies roster. Marcus Smart is a lion-hearted leader, who should bring some accountability to Taylor Jenkins’ youthful core.
Smart is also one season removed from winning Defensive Player of the Year. Memphis has confirmed they are moving on from Dillon Brooks, so bringing in Smart to guard the opponent’s best perimeter player makes a lot of sense. If Morant can stay on the court, Smart can return to a secondary playmaking role, which better fits his skillset. He can also run the offense with the help of Desmond Bane when Morant is unavailable.
There’s no getting away from the high price here, however.
Tyus Jones has been the league’s best backup point guard for a couple of years. Two Draft picks alongside Jones feels like an over-the-top cost, even with Smart on a team-friendly deal through 2025-26. Sure, the Grizz have all their firsts and don’t exactly need more young talent, but could those picks have been put towards a bigger deal?
There is a downside for the Grizz where Smart ages badly. He’s clocked well over 20,000 minutes entering his age-29 campaign. He can play a position or two up, but could a Morant, Bane and Smart triumvirate be undersized in the Playoffs against the size of the Lakers or Nuggets?
Wizards continue to get fleeced — D
Okay, so this grade might seem harsh. Washington was backed into a corner with Porzingis’ player option deadline. The threat of his free agency forced their hand.
This reaction is more based on the previous few seasons of the Wizards’ front office than this specific Porzingis Celtics trade. It’s hard to know what more they could have done after trading Bradley Beal, but the optics are awful. The Wiz have not received a single first-round selection for Rui Hachimura, Beal and Porzingis. Kyle Kuzma is surely set to leave for nothing in free agency.
A deep rebuild is what Washington has needed for a while. In that sense, getting something for Porzingis is better than nothing. Jones, a free agent at the end of next season, will have value before the deadline. Maybe they can deal Gallinari for a second.
To not even get a protected first for a player who averaged 23 points per game and played plus-defense is disappointing despite the unfavorable circumstances. Just as with Beal, this was another case of the Wizards waiting too long. Porzingis should’ve been dealt midway through 2022-23.