Momentum against a Kristaps Porzingis trade picked up quickly Wednesday afternoon. It wasn’t via the trade that was originally proposed, but the Celtics eventually got their guy shortly before midnight. Marcus Smart is headed to Memphis, the Celtics get Porzingis and two first-round picks, and Tyus Jones is (for now) on the Wizards.
There are a lot of moving parts in this trade. Let’s grade this trade, starting with the Celtics first.
Kristaps Porzingis Celtics trade grade: How much better does former All-Star make Boston?
For those who didn’t watch much of the Wizards, Porzingis is much better than you probably remember from his time in Dallas. He has quietly played at a fringe All-Star level after being moved there at the 2022 trade deadline.
Porzingis has had a ton of questions about his health, but he played in 65 games last year. That number would have been even higher had the Wizards not held him out for a non-competitive final six game stretch.
Losing Smart is painful, but Porzingis will be a good fit for the Celtics if he can keep up that streak of good health.
How Kristaps Porzingis will fit with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown on offense
The Celtics like to run mostly five-out offensive sets. They position all their players outside the 3-point line to open the floor for Brown and Tatum, who can operate in isolation or the pick-and-roll.
Porzingis is more than capable of playing in this type of system. The idea of Porzingis as a unicorn was that he could be a quality 3-point shooter at a ridiculous 7-foot-3 height. In practice, he was a mediocre shooter, which limited his impact.
He’s gotten a lot better in Washington without anyone noticing. He shot 38 percent from 3 with the Wizards over 82 games. He’s cut out some of his worst shots and has become much more focused on getting to the line, averaging a career-high 6.4 free throw attempts per game. match last year.
Once a problem when paired with Doncic, Porzingis is more able to play off the ball now. He can spread the floor for better offensive creators, he can still score from all three levels of the court, and he’s gotten more reasonable with his shot attempts when he gets a chance to cook. He’ll give them a different offensive look that can take some of the pressure off Tatum and Brown during those periods when the offense tends to stall.
Kristaps Porzingis will add even more rim protection to the Celtics’ elite defense
Porzingis isn’t a very mobile center, which could limit his effectiveness defensively if he’s not surrounded by the right complementary personnel. Fortunately, that staff exists in Boston.
The Celtics already play a heavy dose of drop defense, which requires a shooting threat. That’s exactly what Porzingis specializes in. Opponents shot 11.1 percent worse at the rim with him as the primary defender last year, per Crafted NBA, who was in the 97th percentile of all players. He has an estimated 7-foot-6 wingspan, and his 1.5 blocks per game. game for the Wizards was the eighth highest mark in the league.
The Celtics are also one of the best teams at keeping their big men close to the basket. They play a switch-heavy scheme that allows Robert Williams III to function as a roamer near the rim. If Williams’ man goes out to set a ball screen, he’ll preemptively switch out of it to stay near the paint.
Here’s a video to accompany what they’re talking about. pic.twitter.com/Lh2n3qUPrX
— Steph Noh (@StephNoh) 28 February 2022
The Celtics can push Porzingis right into this exact same role, preventing him from having to guard in space.
Boston has ranked first and second in defense over the last two years. It’s a scary thought, but it gets even better with Porzingis in the fold.
How much better will the Celtics be after the Kristaps Porzingis trade?
The Celtics paid a high price for Porzingis, trading the heart and soul of their team in Smart. It’s impossible to say what kind of effect that will have on their delicate team chemistry given all the intangibles, vocal leadership and energy that Smart brought. Fortunately, they had a surplus of quality guards in their rotation. If Malcolm Brogdon can stay healthy, then he and Derrick White should be able to mitigate the loss of Smart.
The Celtics were able to get some draft equity as part of this trade that also helps. They move up ten spots in the 2023 draft — from No. 35 to No. 25. The Warriors are also sending their 2024 pick, which will likely be somewhere in the back half of the first round in what many draft experts say is a weak class.
The Celtics are taking a big gamble on health with this trade. They have a bunch of injury-prone players on their roster now, but their upside is higher. It’s a boom-or-bust strategy.
If it all works out, then Porzingis can let the Celtics play the best version of themselves. They can return to their two-big lineup that was so devastating in years past. This was a risky trade, but it should make them strong favorites to get back to the finals.
Celtic’s grade: B
Marcus Smart Grizzlies trade quality
The Grizzlies saw a desperate team and took advantage. Tyus Jones is the best backup point guard in the league. He would have made a capable starter in the absence of Ja Morant, who has been suspended for the first 25 games of the season. But Smart is a better player locked into a reasonable contract that pays him about $20 million over each of the next three years.
Smart’s defense should help cover for Morant, who is a poor defender. The Grizzlies now have the final two defensive players of the year on their roster in Smart and Jaren Jackson Jr. Their defense has a chance to be the best in the league.
Smart’s career 32 percent shooting from 3 poses some problems. The Grizzlies will have to shoot around those two a lot when they play together.
More than anything, Smart brings veteran leadership to a locker room that sounded like it needed it. The Grizzlies have played with a certain edge that has made them great, but they have gone too far over the edge at some of their most critical points. This has led to them very publicly moving on from Dillon Brooks and trying to clean up their culture. Maybe Smart can be the mentor they need.
There were some good players at the end of this draft, and the Grizzlies have been good at finding value in that area. Giving up two picks and Jones is tough, but worth it.
Grizzlies grade: B+
Wizards trade character
The Wizards did a good deal here. They risked losing Porzingis for nothing. He could have easily opted out of his deal and left. Instead, they got a solid point guard in Jones that they can flip for more assets down the line, the 35th pick in the draft and two expiring contracts in Danilo Gallinari and Mike Muscala, who should also have league-wide interest.
The Wizards are setting themselves up very nicely to have a ton of cap space when it becomes a premium asset under the new collective bargaining agreement. They’ve chosen a direction, and they’ll get a ton of draft picks over the next few years by taking on bad contracts around the league.
It’s not pretty, but this is the best way for them to prepare for the future.
Wizards Trade Grade: B+