The 2023 NBA draft threatened to provoke trades. While the focus was on others, the day before the draft was all about the Boston Celtics and Kristaps Porzingis. After several eventful hours, the Porzingis Celtics deal was finally finalized.
Boston eventually joined with the Memphis Grizzlies and Washington Wizards to create a three-team deal. Marcus Smart travels to Memphis. The Grizzlies sent the Celtics two first-round picks.
However, that was a fix after an initial three-team trade between the Celtics, Clippers and Wizards appeared to be coming. Los Angeles was dealt Malcolm Brogdon, but ended up not participating in the deal. An opportunity was missed to delay the contract of Marcus Morris.
Details on Porzingis Celtics move and Smart move to Memphis
- Celtics acquired: Kristaps Porzingis, 23rd pick in 2023, Warriors first-round pick in 2024
- Grizzlies got: Marcus Smart
- The Wizards receive: Tyus Jones, Danilo Gallinari, Mike Muscala, 35th pick in the 2023 draft
We compiled our analysis of this three-team trade using only our Smart and Porzingis trade levels.
Celtics hit their pivot – B+
Giving up Brogdon for Porzingis (and his $36 million player option) would have been a mediocre deal for the Celtics. Sure, Brogdon has injury concerns, but so does Porzingis. Combining the Latvian with Robert Williams III and Al Horford would not have been a huge allocation of resources. Maybe it’s not ideal yet.
The difference, however, is that Boston has won two more firsts. Thursday’s first-round pick could be used for a promotion, it could be used as veteran help, or it could be a way to land a cost-controlled rotation player (think Christian Braun). And while Smart was the heart of the Celtics team, he hasn’t had his best year and his offensive decisions too often prove a liability.
Derrick White, Brogdon and Payton Pritchard are a more than solid guard rotation. Jaylen Brown will continue to play most of the two in larger casts. Maybe this is Brad Williams’ way of getting Joe Mazzulla to use two long players after the rookie coach heavily favored distance over height in 2022-23.
Of course, Porzingis supplies another floor-splitter. He can protect the rim, attack shutouts and has improved significantly at punishing smaller defenders. His presence could help lighten the load on the Celtics’ offense, which is too often stuck in a bind.
Grizzlies want leadership – B-
It’s no secret that the Grizzlies wanted experienced leadership. Aside from Ja Morant’s two suspensions, it has been widely reported that this Grizzlies team has questioned its maturity. Marcus Smart is a lion-hearted leader who should bring some responsibility to Taylor Jenkins’ young core.
Smart is also one season away from Defensive Player of the Year honors. Memphis has confirmed that they will replace Dillon Brooks, so bringing in Smart to protect their opponents’ best perimeter player makes a lot of sense. If Morant can stay on the court, Smart could return to a secondary role player that better suits his skills. He can also run the offense with help from Desmond Bane when Morant is unavailable.
However, you can’t avoid the high price here.
Tyus Jones has been the league’s top running back for several years. Two picks along with Jones seems like an exorbitant cost, even with Smart on a team-friendly deal through 2025-26. Of course, the Grizz all have their firsts, but not necessarily need more young talent, but could these decisions have resulted in a bigger deal?
Grizz has a downside as intelligence ages badly. In his 29-year-old season, he completed over 20,000 minutes of play. He can play a position or two higher, but could a triumvirate of Morant, Bane and Smart be small in the playoffs compared to the size of the Lakers or Nuggets?
Wizards continue to hide – D
Okay, this note may seem harsh. Washington backed itself into a corner with the expiration of Porzingis’ player option. The threat of his free choice forced him to act.
This reaction is based on previous seasons in the Wizards front office and not this particular Porzingis Celtics trade. It’s hard to say what else they could have done after the Bradley Beal trade, but the visuals are dire. The Wiz didn’t get a single first-round pick for Rui Hachimura, Beal and Porzingis. Kyle Kuzma will probably be free for nothing.
A deep rebuild is what Washington has needed for some time. In this sense: preserved SOMETHING because Porzingis is better than nothing. Jones, who is a free agent at the end of next season, will have value before the deadline. Maybe they can stop for a second at Gallinari.
To not even get a top defensive spot for a player who averaged 23 points per game and played plus defense despite adverse circumstances is disappointing. As with Beal, this was another case where the Wizards waited too long. Porzingis should have been negotiated in the middle of 2022/23.