Marcus Smart will be a restricted free agent, meaning that Boston may match any offer.

MARCUS SMART

The Boston Celtics have extended a qualifying offer to gritty guard Marcus Smart, officially making him a restricted free agent when NBA free agency begins Sunday at midnight, MassLive confirmed.

The offer is no surprise. With it, Smart now becomes a restricted free agent, meaning the Celtics can match any offer sheet he signs elsewhere to bring him back for the same price.

Smart and the Celtics were unable to work out an extension this fall, and the two appeared far apart for much of the talks. But the Celtics have expressed a consistent desire to bring the 24-year-old back. Coach Brad Stevens did so just this week, telling The Athletic’s Jay King he wants Smart around for the future “for a number of reasons.”

His qualifying offer will be worth $6.1 million. Smart now has the opportunity to ride out restricted free agency inside a market that most anticipate to be unforgiving (only about seven teams will have significant cap space) or take the qualifying offer, play next season in Boston under a $6.1 million salary and then become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2019.

Of course, next summer will have a crowded free-agent class, as well.

Smart averaged 10.2 points, 3.5 rebounds and 4.8 assists for the Celtics this past season, though he remained one of the NBA’s least-efficient shooters, knocking in only 37 percent of his field-goal attempts and 30 percent of his 3-pointers.

He is yet to make an All-Defensive Team, though he is already considered one of the league’s stingiest guards on the perimeter.