With the Celtics rising from the middle of the group to the top level in the NBA in recent weeks, Marcus Smart has been a consistent, reliable force — and not just on the defensive end.
Smart, who often hurts him for his offensive struggles when the Celtics play poorly, deserves to be commended for his offensive prowess during this latest round.
His career averages are 10.4 points, 4.4 assists, 38% from the ground and 32% from 3. In the last 13 games, Smart has averaged 12.9 points and 5.6 assists while shooting 49.1% from the field and 36.9% from distance.
With his aggressiveness in taking the ball to the basket, his unparalleled passing ability and improved shooting selection all on display at the same time, it’s fair to say that this was one of the most consistent periods of his offensive career and it’s no coincidence that the Celtics lined up their best period Extended this season with the best Smart extension of the season. They lost to the Pistons in mid-February when Smart was sidelined with an ankle injury, otherwise their loss to the Pacers on Sunday is the only other setback in a month.
With Smart as their anchor, the Celtics play simple and savvy over and over again. Here’s a closer look at why Smart has been booming so offensively lately.
He takes the ball to the basket.
In the last 13 matches, Smart has tried over seven three times at once. He has taken it two or four times less during that time.
The days of the masses shouting “No Marcos!” On their television screens long in the past.
Smart is shooting 60.3 percent this season on shots five feet or less off the hoop, on its way to a career-high of 4.8 points in paint per game. Teams have to pay close attention to Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown (as they should), to the point that Smart is often the beneficiary of singles matches that he can easily capitalize on.
He is able to use his speed to beat his defender away from a dribble, take a float or a runner who normally makes his way, or throw the ball to Robert Williams.
He doesn’t wait for defenses to be created unless he has to and does a lot of his transition damage.
Only 49.1% of his shots were 3 seconds, his lowest since 2017-18. Only 39.3 percent of his points come from a 3-point range, the lowest level since 2016-2017. For a player like Steph Curry or Trae Young, this is not ideal. For Smart, it lights up a promising direction.
Sometimes a little is more, and he’s starting to find out.
His playmaking ability is elite.
Smart has brought up the debate over whether or not it’s a real starting point for comfort (at least for now). It’s an interesting debate, and both sides have an advantage, but it’s hard to make a convincing case against him as long as the Celtics continue to win.
He has a knack for giving them exactly what they need at the right time. Here, Facundo Campazzo is stuck in Smart, and Smart can beat him. The Celtics’ spacing is excellent, and Derek White and Grant Williams are shooting threats, so the defenders on the wing have no choice but to stay put. When Nikola Jokic comes in to help weakly, Robert Williams is wide open to two easygoers.
Smart has the sixth best plus-minus (6.1) this season among players to have appeared in at least 50 games, behind only Curry, Chris Paul, Jokic, Michal Bridges and Tatum. He’s had a plus-minus plus every year of his career, but he’s never been anywhere near that high.
His net worth rating is 8.8 on a career level, player impact rating is 9.3 highest in his career, and his assist ratio of 22.8 is his second highest ever, on NBA.com.
With Tatum and Brown handling the bulk of the load, Smart simply had to be a dribble-and-ball-oriented keeper, trusting the system and talent around him, and that’s exactly what he did.
Victories piled up, criticism waned, and it became clearer and more obvious that keeping him in Boston was the right move.