In the NBA, there are a fair amount of players who follow the "bet on yourself" concept, which involves the player rejecting a smaller deal to try and get a bigger one in free agency. There are times that can definitely work out.
Marcus Smart wasn't one of those players, as he ended up signing a 4-year $77.1 million extension to stay with the Boston Celtics. Some believe he's underpaid, and Stephen A. Smith has stated that "there is no way Marcus Smart should be getting less than $20 million a year". While Marcus Smart took the money that was on the table, he definitely thought about going into free agency next summer to chase a bigger deal. In a recent interview with Jay King of The Athletic, Smart revealed that the number in his mind was "at least $90 million".
Before signing a four-year, $77 million contract extension in August, Smart said he strongly considered turning down the offer to test free agency next summer. That was the maximum value the Celtics could offer in negotiations at the time, but Smart could have waited until the next offseason to seek more money from either Boston or another team. He even had a number in mind.
“At least $90 million,” Smart said.
After discussions with those he trusts, Smart eventually decided the security of a long-term contract outweighed the possibility of chasing what he believes he’s worth. Smart said he considers himself “blessed” to have signed such a hefty contract, which will run through the 2025-26 season, but still thinks several lesser players cashed bigger checks.
“For me, it was, I’ve gotta get paid,” Smart said. “I’ve gotta get mine. Everybody else in my position that I’ve dominated are getting theirs. And it’s like, I know I do way more than these guys. I’m on a better team as well. So it’s like, what’s going on? I was actually willing to go straight into free agency and go to the market. But just talking to my circle, my family, my people and just understanding the pros versus the cons, the good versus the bad and things like that. What are you willing to sacrifice? What are you willing to gain? So it was a business decision. Especially with the way everything’s going with COVID and everything, nothing’s for sure, nothing’s guaranteed. So I wanted to make sure I give myself a shot for another payday eventually by taking care of business on this one. So it was a business decision for me.”
There is no doubt that accepting the Celtics deal was a great financial decision from Marcus Smart, as there's definitely potential for missing out on that deal one wants in free agency. A guaranteed $77 million is in most cases better than an unguaranteed $90 million. There are definitely many players who have rejected big contracts and ended up regretting it, so taking the money that's being offered is worth it, even if it's a little less than what you want. At the end of the day, Marcus Smart still acquired a great amount of wealth with his new contract.
The Boston Celtics will hope that Marcus Smart will provide more of the same on his new deal: he is a great playmaker and an elite perimeter defender. There's also potential for Marcus Smart to have a small mid-career jump. Regardless, the Boston Celtics believed in Smart's abilities to give him that extension, and he will likely continue playing at a high level.