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(UPDATED version of a previous article after the trade was adjusted)

The NBA offseason is off and running! The Washington Wizards got things started by agreeing to trade Bradley Beal to the Phoenix Suns, and now they’re continuing their teardown. Washington has agreed to the parameters of a three-team trade with the Boston Celtics and the Memphis Grizzlies. Here are the basics:

Celtics Acquire
Kristaps Porzingis, #25 pick in 2023 Draft, future Golden State Warriors first-round pick

Grizzlies Acquire
Marcus Smart

Wizards Acquire
Danilo Gallinari, Tyus Jones, Mike Muscala, #35 pick in 2023 Draft

(Note: If deal terms change significantly, we’ll update the article accordingly.)

The Mechanics

Much like the trade of Bradley Beal to Phoenix, this is a deal that needs to happen in the current league year. Because both Boston is close to the super tax line, it was far easier to make this trade happen now.

For the Wizards, their part is again fairly easy. They’re trading out the $36 million owed to Kristaps Porzingis (he’ll have to opt in for next season to make this deal possible) and taking back about $24.3 million. Washington will create a Traded Player Exception (TPE) of about $11.7 million in this deal.

For Boston, they need to get this deal done in this league year. Doing so allows them to use the salary-matching rules that allow them to bring in 125% of the outgoing salary. That’s Marcus Smart, Danilo Gallinari and Mike Muscala in this case. Acquiring the 25th pick in the 2023 Draft comes with $0 as far as salary-matching goes, but it does push Boston a bit closer to super tax.

The Grizzlies also take on some money here by swapping Tyus Jones for Marcus Smart, but they would have been fine to complete this deal now or later. The main push for Memphis to get this deal now is clarity around the draft.

The Celtics

Incoming 2023-24 Salary: $38,639,880
Outgoing 2023-24 Salary: $29,219,996
Difference: $9,419,884

Boston was always going to do something this offseason. After falling short in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics were searching for that move to put them over the top. All signs pointed to Malcolm Brogdon being traded, and he was until the LA Clippers backed out of the deal. Instead, the longest-tenured Celtic, and the team’s heart and soul, were sent out.

Kristaps Porzingis is an excellent fit for the Celtics on both ends of the floor. He’s coming off the best season of his eight-year career. Porzingis also turns 28 years old this summer, and is entering what should be the prime years of his career.

On offense, Porzingis gives Boston another stretch big. In many ways, think of him as the Celtics replacement for Grant Williams, who played a key role off the Boston bench for the last few years. Porzingis won’t come off the bench, but he’ll have a somewhat similar, if greatly expanded, role in Boston’s offense.

Porzingis is a 36% shooter from three for his career. This past season, he knocked down 38.5% of his three-pointers on 356 attempts. Not only is Porzingis a good shooter, and a volume one, but he has some of the deepest range in the NBA.

Because Porzingis was rarely stationed as a pure spot-up guy, the vast majority of his three-point attempts came from above the break. On those looks, he knocked down 38.1%. On shots from 25 to 29 feet (deeper threes), Porzingis retained his effectiveness by hitting 38.3% of his triples. That sort of deep range will open up the floor for the Celtics in ways they haven’t seen yet. That will create driving lanes for Boston’s host of off-the-dribble playmakers and scorers.

That shooting, combined with Porzingis’ ability to take players down into the post, and to finish as roll man, should make him the sort of lethal third scorer the Celtics haven’t had over the last few years. He’s not the passer that Boston’s other bigs are, but there are some signs that he can do more as a facilitator than he’s shown to this point.

On defense, Porzingis will likely function in the role where Robert Williams has had a lot of success for the Celtics: roaming as a weakside helper. Al Horford will likely continue to guard the bigger bigs (think Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, etc.), while Porzingis will be able to float and help. Porzingis is coming off a pretty good individual defensive season. His defensive impact should get even better while surrounded by the best defenders he’s ever played with.

On the downside, Porzingis was relatively healthy last season, as he appeared in 65 games. That’s the most games he’s played over the last six seasons, which includes an entirely missed season after a torn ACL. Repeating that level of availability will be a big part of determining the success level of this trade for the Celtics. If he misses half the season, that will lessen his overall impact.

Porzingis will also see his usage rate, which generally hovers in the high-20% range, drop by a good amount. Both Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown key the Celtics offense, and that isn’t going to change. But what Porzingis trades out in volume could be made up for in efficiency, as he’ll be playing with the most talented group he’s been with yet. That should mean a healthy diet of good looks on offense.

Marcus Smart is a major loss for the Celtics. There’s no way to spin it other than he was the team’s heart and soul. Whenever Boston absolutely needed a play, Smart was the guy who made it. But after nine years, the Celtics decided it was time to shake things up.

Smart’s defense slipped noticeably last season, after winning Defensive Player of the Year in 2022. He was still good against bigger players, but the quicker perimeter players gave him trouble. Smart is also injury-prone and an inconsistent shooter.

But Smart was still a good defender, the Celtics best playmaker and the guy who regularly got the offense started. Beyond all that, he was a loved and trusted fan favorite, a team leader and a Celtic through and through. Those things are harder to quantify than the statistical stuff, but that doesn’t make them any less real.

There are already reports that this trade will ultimately cost Boston Grant Williams. As a pending restricted free agent, the Celtics could choose to work a sign-and-trade with Williams, to return something of value. Or they may just choose to make things easy and let Williams go free and clear. His shooting-defense combination will be missed, as will Williams’ ability to keep the locker room loose.

In the backcourt, the Celtics still have decisions to make with Malcolm Brogdon and Payton Pritchard. Brogdon now knows he was being traded, so that’s something Brad Stevens will have to handle. Brogdon’s injury history was also apparently a factor in the LA Clippers pulling out of the deal, which is scary for Boston. Brogdon has $45 million owed to him over the next two seasons, and that’s a lot if his elbow injury suffered in the Eastern Conference Finals is worse than originally thought.

As for Pritchard, there’s a chance the Celtics keep him around now. The path to playing time is a little clearer with Smart out of the picture. Pritchard should be able to get regular minutes off the bench., even if big minutes still won’t be there. His shooting has always been a valuable skill, and Pritchard’s playmaking is improving all the time. This remains a situation to keep an eye on.

In a real sense, Boston may be trading Marcus Smart and Grant Williams for Kristaps Porzingis and Payton Pritchard. That’s probably a win for the Celtics, pending what ultimately happens with Porzingis and Pritchard contractually.

Losing Danilo Gallinari and Mike Muscala are sort of “shrug” impacts for Boston. Gallinari unfortunately never got suit up for the Celtics. Muscala was fine, but didn’t play enough after being acquired at the trade deadline for anyone to get worked up about his inclusion in the deal.

Adding two first-round picks for the Celtics is a key part of this trade, considering they gave up Smart in this deal. As an already-expensive team, and only getting more so, Boston had to put themselves in position to add cheaper, team-controlled talent through the draft. The 25th pick in this year’s draft is a start. The future Golden State Warriors first-round pick has some protections, but should deliver as soon as next season. If nothing else, it’s additional capital to toss in a deal down the line.

There are already rumors that Boston will look to extend Porzingis. He likely won’t get near the $36 million he’s set to make this season, but Porzingis could command a first-year salary in an extension of $30 million. And Pritchard is extension-eligible. It remains unlikely Boston will extend him, but it’s more in play now than it would have been with Smart on the roster. With super max extensions looming for Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, the Celtics cap sheet will remain pretty fat with guaranteed salary.

Finally, to wrap things up for Boston, they could be in position to use the $5 million Taxpayer MLE now. If Grant Williams is out of the picture, Boston should have enough room under the second apron to sign a player via the Taxpayer MLE. That player will likely replace whatever the Celtics had hoped to get from Gallinari, after he lost last season due to a torn ACL.

The Grizzlies

Incoming 2023-24 Salary: $18,917,046
Outgoing 2023-24 Salary: $16,623,680
Difference: $2,293,366

Marcus Smart might be the most “grit ‘n’ grind” player to never have been a part of that Memphis Grizzlies culture. Now, he will be.

Smart is a perfect fit for the Grizzlies as both a Ja Morant replacement (temporarily) and a Dillon Brooks replacement (long-term). Even though his perimeter defense slipped, he’s still a top-tier defender. Smart is also an incredibly switchable player. Put him with Jaren Jackson Jr. and your options at the other three positions increase a lot, because they’ll cover up so much on defense for everyone else.

On offense, Smart will take over at the Grizzlies starting point guard to open next season. When Morant is back from his suspension, Smart will either transition into a bench role, or Memphis can run a three-guard group with him, Morant and Desmond Bane in the starting lineup. Either way, that’s a terrific three-guard rotation.

Tyus Jones was terrific for the Grizzlies as a backup and spot-starter. Smart will be a different look, but he’s a more than adequate replacement. And Memphis is already used to inconsistent shooting from their time with Dillon Brooks, so that shouldn’t be all that much of an adjustment. Finding another guard to play behind Smart is important, because his health history shows that he’ll miss some time himself each season.

On the cap sheet, Smart is signed for just shy of $60 million over the next three seasons. That’s perfectly fair value, and it removes some of the uncertainty for Memphis of what would happen with Jones after this season. The Grizzlies have a core of guys locked in for the next few years, and that’s huge as they continue their ascent in the Western Conference.

As for the draft picks, it was time for Memphis to part with some of them. The Grizzlies have drafted and developed as well as anyone over the last several years. But that’s resulted in a roster that is pretty stuffed, and you can’t pay everyone. Parting with a couple of picks to upgrade the rotation is a solid investment for Memphis.

The Wizards

Incoming 2023-24 Salary: $24,302,950
Outgoing 2023-24 Salary: $36,016,200
Difference: -$11,713,250

Much like the Bradley Beal trade, this more or less amounts to a salary-dump for Washington. They are taking back far less money than they send out. Tyus Jones, Danilo Gallinari and Mike Muscala are all on expiring contracts, so their goal of long-term cap flexibility was achieved for the Wizards.

Jones is a good player, but Washington has a glut of point guards now. They’ve got Jones, Monte Morris, Delon Wright and the recently-acquired Chris Paul. That’ll sort itself out through further transactions, but it’s fair to say no one should plan for Jones, or any of the others, to be a long-term Wizard.

The same is true of Gallinari and Muscala. Both could be parts of the rotation and eat up some regular season minutes. Or either, or both, could be moved in another deal. Again, neither is very likely to be in DC beyond this upcoming season.

This trade is maybe a touch worse for Washington than the original version with the LA Clippers, because they missed out on getting a first-round pick. But the Wizards only moved back five spots, and they got a better player in Jones. So, it’s probably closer to neutral than truly worse.

Now, Washington can continue with their teardown. The Wizards haven’t taken on any guaranteed money beyond this current season. There’s a chance that Washington could have as little as $33 million on the books for the 24-25 season. That would translate into somewhere around $100 million in potential cap space.

Cap space alone has never won anything. But having that sort of flexibility is what the new Wizards front office wanted. With these two trades of Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis, they achieved it.

The Clippers

LA reportedly backed out of the original deal due to concerns about Malcolm Brogdon’s injury history. That’s fair, given Brogdon is dealing with a torn ligament in the elbow of his shooting arm. And his long-term history isn’t much cleaner.

Now, LA brings Marcus Morris and Amir Coffey back into the fold, while keeping the 30th pick in this year’s draft. But they still don’t have a real answer at point guard, beyond re-signing Russell Westbrook for the veteran minimum.

However, LA and Washington’s part of the deal was fine, it was the Brogdon portion that collapsed. That means the Clippers and Wizards could re-engage on talks, possibly centered around Chris Paul. That would need to get done in the next week, before the league year changes over, but it’s something to keep an eye on.