Boston Celtics: The Spotlight On Marcus Smart

Feb 10, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) reacts after his basket and being fouled by the Los Angeles Clippers in the second half at TD Garden. Celtics defeated the Clippers in overtime 139-134. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 10, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) reacts after his basket and being fouled by the Los Angeles Clippers in the second half at TD Garden. Celtics defeated the Clippers in overtime 139-134. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports /

With big decisions starting to loom with their starting backcourt, the Boston Celtics will be watching very closely on the development of their promising-but-flawed guard Marcus Smart this season.

For all the criticism they received in their inability to land a definitive star in recent years, the Boston Celtics have unquestionably silenced their doubters this offseason.

That comes as no surprise now where we stand at this point in the summer, but the addition of big man Al Horford, along with not having to part ways with any of their valuable players in order to land him, makes the Celtics a true perennial contender to watch for in the Eastern Conference and the NBA in general.

With that, though, comes higher expectations from fans, followers and NBA experts and the pressure is definitely on for the Celtics to start exceeding said expectations coming out of the gate next season.

But as much as bringing in Horford solidifies the Celtics’ former need to find a centerpiece for their foundation, that doesn’t mean the Celtics are without big decisions in the near future, specifically with their backcourt.

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Between All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas and defensive stalwart Avery Bradley, the Celtics have a highly potent backcourt that has helped carry them to playoff berths over the last couple of seasons.

However, there are a few question marks regarding the longevity of Thomas and Bradley as a starting backcourt now that the Celtics are going into overdrive as a contender.

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That’s where Marcus Smart comes in.

Since being drafted by the Celtics a little more than two years ago, Smart’s production has ranged all over the spectrum between good and bad.

Unfortunately, injuries have played a major role in his output the last two seasons, but in the short time he’s been in the league, Smart has already shown the makings of an impactful player.

The hallmark of Smart’s game lies on the defensive end.  Listed as a 6’4,” 220-pound point guard, Smart’s already a remarkably tough defender that has the ability to guard a variety of positions at various spots on the floor.

In fact, the last time we saw Smart, he was putting his defensive abilities to good use in the Celtics’ series against the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of last year’s playoffs.

Yet what contrasts Smart’s specialties on the defensive end are his numerous problems offensively.

Those problems range from his poor shooting from beyond the arc (Smart’s three-point percentage last season ranked 211th out of 213 players who attempted a minimum of 100 three-point attempts, per to his troublesome finishing at the rim (Smart finished 48 percent of his 166 attempts in the restricted area last season, per

Smart’s three-point shooting was a knock on him dating back to his college days at Oklahoma State University and his aforementioned injury woes likely had an effect on his finishing problems at the rim last year.

Nevertheless, these aren’t exactly encouraging signs for a player whose offensive game needed a fair amount of work to begin with coming out of college.

To his credit though, Smart’s very aware of his offensive struggles and detailed what he’s been working on this summer in a recent interview with Celtics sideline reporter Amanda Pflugrad:

"“Just, you know, becoming more aggressive.  You know, becoming more of an offensive threat.  I’m improving and trying to improve in every aspect of my game.  You know, I’m trying to become more of a second to third, fourth option on the team in scoring, assists and everything.  Just anything I can do to help my team on the offensive end.”"

Smart’s comments underline the fascinating situation that may be in store for the Celtics, one that could only get more complicated with the team’s growing expectations to contend.

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While still a year away from being eligible for a rookie contract extension, Smart will enter restricted free agency in the summer of 2018 if he’s not already signed to a new deal.  That summer also happens to be when both Thomas and Bradley are unrestricted free agents.

That’s still many months from now, but it doesn’t erase the pressure that Smart, along with Thomas, Bradley and the Celtics as a whole, will soon start to face if the team waits to commit to any player long-term without seeing necessary improvements.

As victorious as this offseason has been for the Celtics, their desire to pair another star or high impact player with Horford has now emerged as their biggest objective.

We all know the assets they have to acquire a star player, but the Celtics have played the waiting game up until this point on that front.

That puts the pressure on the Celtics to continue to develop from within, with Smart having the most eyes on him to see if he starts reaching his potential in the next couple of years to come.

How his role within the offense shakes out remains to be seen, but Smart has the chance to start putting his offensive shortcomings behind him once next season rolls around.

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Smart’s already something of a special player with his defensive talents, but now is the time for him to become, as he put it, an offensive threat.  Without that development from Smart, it gets a lot more murkier for him to become the player the Celtics originally envisioned not that long ago.