Marcus Smart rose higher in the Celtics’ rotation last season. At the end of the playoffs, he became the team’s playmaker. He completed one of the best series of his career against the Nets in a role he will take on again this year with Kemba Walker now in New York.
But even with more minutes and responsibility, his value has plummeted in several preseason rankings. Smart went from 68 to 60 in Illustrated sports‘s annual list, while sliding from 37 to 49 in ESPN. As the rankings of the two posts moved closer, both touting the words heart and soul in their descriptions – a kind of public consensus has formed on one of the most controversial figures, even among the Celtics fan base.
Outside of Boston, opinions remain high on Smart, while acknowledging the challenges it faced in 2020-21. This season, we’ll find out if Smart is closer to the 2020 or 2021 version of himself: All-Defense or streak on his side; part of a NBA Finals competitor or the lifeblood of a team just trying to squeeze through the playoffs. The Celtics, extending Smart on a four-year, $ 77.1 million contract in August, have claimed he will be a mainstay player in the future, asking him to become the starting point for the squad every night. rather than a jack of all trades.
Given that Smart virtually submitted a statistical carbon copy of 2019-2020, his downfall appears to reflect poor health (he missed 24 games, mostly due to calf strain in February) and the Celtics’ setback as that team “, ESPN’s Kevin Pelton wrote. “Smart didn’t have another long playoff run to show his defensive impact.”
Smart’s salary this season ($ 14.3 million) places him 98th in the league, around Malik Beasley, Thad Young, Patrick Beverley and Joe Ingles. Only Ingles were on the ESPN roster (62), while Beasley (94) and Ingles (68) were in IF.
Smart has outclassed that contract, partly evidenced by his salary hike to $ 16.6 million next year, which is currently ranked 77th in the league next season. Some future free agents like Deandre Ayton, Kevin Huerter and Zach LaVine will most likely exceed that number and some who do more like Al Horford have fallen behind Smart in the NBA pecking order in their current deals. Drops from players like Kevin Love, Kemba Walker, and John Wall likely position Smart roughly where IF did so, just below 60th place in the league.
IFpositioning of the affected wound Klay thompson, De’Andre Hunter and Michael Porter Jr. above Smart could be discussed. As are offensive guards like D’Angelo Russell, Caris LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie, behind Smart. ESPN The list excludes injured Kawhi Leonard and Jamal Murray, beating Smart by two places over what would otherwise be 51. Jerami Grant, John Collins and Clint Capela are behind Smart on this list, which is difficult to defend. Lonzo Ball also slips behind Smart at 57, whom Boston would no doubt have needed to trade Smart to acquire, with Gordon Hayward (58), whom no one would have disputed that Smart is ahead in Boston.
All of these players can score more effectively than Smart. This is where these lists become difficult to analyze. How do you rate the defense of Smart, who probably still ranks in the first quarter of the league at least, compared to his offense, which wouldn’t even sniff a Top 100 list? Those lists seem to weigh heavily, given the league’s borderline top 50 status, which was among the top 40 in ESPN case last winter.
Now entering his prime with an outside shot that goes up and down year on year, Smart’s physical tenacity (and his relatively unnoticed playing chops) still endows him with his teammates and coaches, even when he is. a little too zealous with the jumper. ” Michael Pina wrote for IF.
Smart’s 33 percent three-point percentage last year was tied for 142nd in basketball last season. His field goal percentage of 39.8% is in the top 125. Among the playmakers, his 5.7 assists per game finished 23rd, tied with Ball, who had 45 more in the game. total. Smart was 43rd in assist percentage and 153rd in live shooting percentage, among Tyler Herro, Coby White and Josh Richardson.
Efficiency is not a requirement to be among the best in the league. Russell Westbrook and Ja Morant fell below Smart in% TS and reached the top 30 on ESPN. Still, Smart’s defense would need to hit a solid threshold to position itself among the higher volume creators, scorers and shooters. Last year, whether it was due to a higher offensive load, the aforementioned calf injury, or a disconnect at the Celtics, he slipped.
Smart’s net score of +2.8 was its worst since 2015-16. His -0.2 plus-minus defensive box marked his first negative of his career, as well as a career-low 1.5 defensive win share. According to Clean the glass, 2021 marked the first season opponents scored the same number of points per possession against Boston, whether Smart was on or off the field, roughly the league average. He only received one vote for the first All-Defense team after taking top honors the year before.
In the coming seasons, Smart must fend off ascendant talents like Anthony Edwards, Cade Cunningham and Jalen Green who have entered. ESPNthe preseason radar behind the guard. Darius Garland, Dejounte Murray, LeVert, LaMelo Ball and old friend Terry Rozier continue their ascent, adding new layers to their plays and leading their attacks.
The Celtics will push Smart to do the same, giving him more power than ever with ball time and a new contract that projects growth. Ime Udoka also called him publicly as part of the core of the team. Smart deserves the benefit of the doubt for a slack year in an odd season for the entire league.
However, stagnating offensively and declining further in defense in 2022 will quickly raise questions about his position in the league. It begins a pivotal year for the veteran Celtics, a reportedly disconnected in the room amid the uproar of 2021. An extension has asserted his position to some extent within the franchise and certainly with Brad Stevens. Could the Udoka era begin with the appointment of the first captain since Rajon Rondo? We will see how far this love and trust goes.