NBA free agency 2018: Marcus Smart is Celtics' 'top priority' this offseason, Danny Ainge says

As we near the two-week mark of the 2018 edition of NBA free agency, most of the big questions have been answered. One that still remains, though, is what will happen with the Boston Celtics and restricted free agent Marcus Smart. The two sides are currently locked in a stalemate, the type of which frequently occurs when a player hits restricted free agency. 

But while Smart and the Celtics haven't been able to come together on a deal just yet, Boston GM and president of basketball operations Danny Ainge says the hard-working guard remains the Celtics' "top priority."

There have been various reports in recent days about the status of their negotiations. Smart has reportedly been "hurt" by the Celtics' lack of communication, while the Kings have apparently kicked around the idea of offering him a deal. Most recently, it's been clear that Smart is still in the process of meeting with teams. 

It's pretty clear the Celtics would love to retain Smart, but the issue, as is usually the case in free agency, is the money. With an already expensive roster, and multiple players -- including Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum -- who will soon be expecting big paydays, the Celtics are facing a crunch. 

As Ainge indicated, the team is willing to pay the tax, but that doesn't mean the money is unlimited. With only a few teams -- the Kings, Nets and Hawks -- possessing the cap space to make a big-time offer to Smart, it will be interesting to see what happens here. 

One likely option is Smart simply signing the $6.1M qualifying offer on the table and re-entering free agency as an unrestricted free agent next summer when more teams could have cap space. Smart has until Oct. 1 to sign that qualifying offer, so this situation could drag on throughout the summer. 

NBA Writer

Jack Maloney lives and writes in Milwaukee, where, like the Bucks, he is trying to own the future. Full Bio

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