Celtics

Boston’s Key to Elevation Lies With Smart

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For the Boston Celtics, many look to proven stars like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker. But many underestimate the skill and contributions Marcus Smart makes to the team.

Known for his energetic play on defense, the 26-year-old took on more responsibility in the offense while Kemba recovered from injury. Smart has always exhibited his ability to make an impact beyond scoring, but scoring became a necessity for him if Boston wanted to win without their point guard.

Likewise, Smart’s defense and playmaking ability proves to be key for the team’s success. He does not have to be a main scorer to enhance the Celtics’ offense, but he could add another facet and give the opposing defense another guy to defend. Locking onto Smart would open up opportunities for Boston’s Big 3 along with other role players. After 12 games, the impact of the former Oklahoma State Cowboy can be detected on both sides of the ball.

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On-Par Production, But Could Improve

Heading into the season, fans hoped the former sixth-overall pick worked on his scoring touch. Adding a consistent Smart would elevate the Celtics toward the top of the Eastern Conference. After a dozen contests, Smart is averaging 13.3 points and 5.6 assists per game, good for 30th in the league. Despite the contributions, Smart’s numbers slightly declined despite Walker’s absence.

One reason why his numbers look the same may be because of his lackluster shooting thus far. Despite Smart’s increased minutes and more opportunities to score, he is not taking full advantage. His field goal, three-point and free throw numbers have all experienced a slight dip. It is understandable since Smart takes more shots, but he may be the bridge between playoff contention and winning a championship. He needs to become a bigger factor on offense to alleviate pressure off Tatum, Brown and Walker.

Many believed Smart would fill Walker’s scoring load until he returned, but he has not taken the next step yet on offense despite his contributions.

Not-So-Free Throws

One reason he did not see a boost may be because of his free-throw woes. He is currently shooting 71.2% from the charity stripe this season compared to 83.6% last season. Smart continues to make appearances at the line, but cannot get his shots to fall. For instance, Smart shot 8-10 from the free throw line in their win over the Indiana Pacers.

Conversely, however, he missed all three of his free throw attempts in a 96-99 loss to the Detroit Pistons. Whenever he is shooting well from the stripe, Boston seems to have more success. Smart’s aggressive style allows him to draw fouls and create opportunities, but he needs to capitalize.

Defensive Snapshot

Smart’s strengths come on the defensive side of the ball, where he prides himself on obtaining steals, blocks and charges. Although he is not rebounding the ball as often as last season, Smart continues to lock down his opponents. According to NBA.com, he holds his opponents to 26.0% shooting from beyond the arc and 28.6% on shots from 15 feet or more.

Most importantly, he hustles and makes plays that do not show up on any statistics or box scores. His heart and drive may be his most important trait benefiting the team. Smart continues to play his defensive role well, which will be instrumental for Boston’s success when everyone is healthy.

Marcus Smart displayed his confidence by shooting more in the absence of Kemba Walker. Although his percentages dipped slightly, it is still early and he will have plenty of opportunity to improve his numbers. Having Kemba back in the lineup allows Smart to return to his regular role, providing him open looks as he is no longer as big of a focus. With his defensive play still going strong, Smart looks to improve his offensive play and become a needed spark for Boston this year.

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