Boston Celtics: How Marcus Smart can make a bigger impact this season

Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images
Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images /

The Boston Celtics lost Gordon Hayward on opening night and now will look for offense and defensive consistency wherever they can get it. Luckily, they already have a perfect replacement in Marcus Smart.

Through the Boston Celtics‘ first three games, the scramble for offense has been apparent. Without Gordon Hayward in the lineup, Kyrie Irving is the clear first option, with Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart fighting for second fiddle. Offensively, Smart and Hayward are not even in the same realm, but that doesn’t mean Smart can’t produce as Kyrie Irving’s right hand man.

Jaylen Brown has done a terrific job filling some of the gap on defense, playing with confidence and making sure the he keeps pressure on both sides of the ball, though the same can be said about Smart, whose game is much more refined and composed than Brown’s.

This is mainly due to Brown being a more explosive player that requires a bit of recklessness to adhere to his strengths, but it also opens the door for Smart to play to his within the Celtics’ schemes.

Where he can be useful

The positive thing about Marcus Smart is that his offensive abilities are widespread. The only thing that causes fans to groan is when he misses. He takes high-percentage shots and only looks to be selfish with his shots when the team allows him to be, so it’s not even really that selfish; he’s just not that good of a shooter, which wasn’t going to be a problem until Hayward went down.

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In his two appearances so far this season, Smart has averaged 12.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.5 steals and 1.0 blocks per game, despite only shooting 31 percent from the floor and 27.3 percent from 3-point range.

Smart can get shots, but needs to see the ball go in a few times before you can consider him “warm.” Where he can start to be used is in top of the key pick-and-roll with Kyrie, using his strength to out-muscle opponents and draw extra defenders on the inside, or use his speed to roll off the screen into a 3-pointer or, hopefully for his sake, a mid-range jump shot.

Both Irving and Smart counteract well with one another, the only problem is a lot of that production depends on Smart’s outside scoring at that particular time. The narrative surrounding Marcus has completely shifted from, “If Smart is hitting, we’ll win every game,” to “If Smart is hitting, we have a better chance at winning this game.”

Winning will still take a team effort. As far as the gap in the team? Marcus Smart is the guy you want to step up to own the spotlight.

Boston likes defense

Since ridding themselves of more than half their team from the previous season, Smart was one of the lucky ones that was chosen to stay. He is a crowd favorite with his hustle and defense-first mentality. The crowd gets excited when he gets steals and he is just downright fun to watch for anyone who enjoys basketball. The flopping is a little dramatic, but at least at this point we know he’s just trying to sell the foul.

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Now that this team has taken on a new form, Smart represents the previous group of Celtics that thrived on hard defense and hustle. Whether you liked the trades the Celtics made or not, Smart is one of the most consistent players in the league and it’s because of his defense. If you gave Stonehenge a Celtics jersey and it just happened to have quick hands and great footwork, that’s basically Marcus Smart.

If there is one thing you hate to remember about last year’s Eastern Conference Finals, it’s how badly LeBron James dismantled the Celtics’ defense. Smart did a ton of guarding LeBron that series and he…could have done worse. Given the task of guarding James, he stepped up and established himself as an elite defender regardless of the outcome. The scoring ability is there. He’s demonstrated it on multiple occasions.

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Marcus Smart has the perfect opportunity to take the Eastern Conference into his own hands. He is one of the best defenders in his conference and improving his shooting could propel Boston back to the top. With everything surrounding the Celtics, they need someone to step up and save the day. Why not Marcus?