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Marcus Smart Makes Case For Big Contract After Losing Game 7 To Cavaliers

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) -- There is a time and a place for everything. And in the days, weeks and months to come, Celtics guard Marcus Smart and his agent will have ample opportunity to convince people that the restricted-free-agent-to-be is worth a lot of money.

But immediately after losing in Game 7 with a trip to the NBA Finals on the line, in a game where Smart shot 1-for-10 from the field and 0-for-4 from 3-point range? That's probably not the best time to start selling your services.

Nevertheless, the 24-year-old Smart spoke on Sunday night, shortly after the Celtics' Game 7 loss to the Cavaliers, and made the case that he's worth many millions of dollars.

"To be honest, I'm worth more than 12-14 million," Smart told ESPN's Jackie MacMullan. "Just for the things I do on the court that don't show up on the stat sheet. You don't find guys like that. I always leave everything on the court, every game. Tell me how many other players can say that."

Smart is right to say he leaves everything on the court, of course. His offensive rebound off a missed free throw, as well as his steal from LeBron James under the basket in Game 7 were indicative of the types of plays he's capable of making on a surprisingly regular basis.

But he's not the only NBA player who empties the tank every game, and players known more for their effort and hustle generally don't get paid $15 million per year. (Matthew Dellavedova was the beneficiary of the classic "overpay for a champion" scenario when he became a restricted free agent, but even he only got a four-year deal with an average value of $9.6 million. And that was coming off a championship.) And as Suday's Game 7 loss showed, the Celtics got plenty of hustle and heart from Smart, but they needed something else.

They needed someone who could shoot.

Smart's 1-for-10 shooting night was one part of a larger problem for the Celtics, who shot just 34 percent from the field and an atrocious 18 percent from 3-point range. Terry Rozier was 0-for-10 on 3-pointers and 2-for-14 overall, while Jaylen Brown was 3-for-12 from 3-point range and 5-for-18 overall. Outside of Jayson Tatum and Al Horford (who went a combined 16-for-29 from the field), the Celtics went 13-for-58 (22.4 percent) on the night.

If his teammates had shot better, the impact Smart had on the game would likely have gotten much more positive publicity. But on a night when nobody could hit a shot, his shooting woes were magnified.

Smart is a career 36 percent shooter, and he shoots 29.6 percent from 3-point range. He's finished either with the worst or second-worst 3-point shooting percentage on the Celtics in each of his four seasons, and he finished dead last in the entire NBA in 3-point shooting in both the 2015-16 and the 2016-17 seasons.

This is relevant because shot makers tend to make the kind of money that Smart will be seeking in restricted free agency. Smart is many things, but shot maker is not one of them. That isn't deterring Smart from expecting big dollars to be coming his way.

"That's what people say," Smart told MacMullan after being told that some teammates refer to him as the heart of the team. "I'm not sure if you can put a price on that."

As Danny Ainge has proven countless times over the years, everything has a price tag. Isaiah Thomas played through a serious hip injury last spring and played in the postseason despite the sudden death of his younger sister in a car accident. Thomas was the central reason why the Celtics made it to the conference finals last year, a season during which Thomas said time and time again that the Celtics would have to "back up the Brinks truck" in order to sign him as a free agent. Ainge instead just traded the man to Cleveland.

How Ainge values Smart will be interesting. Despite his young age, he's the longest-tenured member of the Celtics. His impact is undeniable and impossible to miss when he's outworking much taller men on the offensive glass, or diving for loose balls, or sneaking up behind the world's greatest player for a timely steal under the basket. These are all winning plays -- but everything has a price.

Will those plays end up being "worth more than 12-14 million" dollars? We'll find out in the months that follow in the number of teams that come calling with free-agent offers. But as far as Smart is concerned, the value has already been set.

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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