Boston Celtics: Marcus Smart is the secret weapon to winning

Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images
Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images /

With the Boston Celtics having such a deep roster, there are many different combinations of starting lineups at Brad Stevens’ disposal, and Marcus Smart needs to be part of it.

With the 2018-19 season just passing the halfway mark, the Boston Celtics are sitting in fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings with a record of 31-19. Because of the depth of the roster, head coach Brad Stevens has been able to move some pieces around as he sees fit.

In total this season, Stevens has put together and used a total of 16 different starting lineup combinations. One constant that was found in the winning lineups was clear: Marcus Smart.

Starting in 29 games this season, Smart was found in nine of the 16 different starting lineups. Of the 29 games that Marcus Smart took a spot in the starting lineup, the Celtics went 21-8.

In their last seven games, they won six, with their only loss being to the perennial powerhouse Golden State Warriors. Marcus Smart started in all seven.

Boston’s most efficient starting lineup, with a record of 12-5, is composed of Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Morris and Al Horford.

So how is Smart the reason those lineups are winning? His ability to get inside players’ heads, play lockdown defense and hit clutch shots when the team needs him most.

One thing that worried many Celtics fans in the earlier years of Smart’s career was his ability to shoot the ball. Since then, he has improved tremendously and continues to improve. This season, Smart is shooting the ball at 40.8 percent, whereas last season he shot a mere 36.7 percent.

While he is scoring two fewer points per game compared to last season, he’s shooting the ball much more effectively by taking much smarter shots. This season, he’s taking an average of 6.6 shots per game, compared to last season’s 9.5 shots per game. This could be due to the fact that the Celtics are targeting him less, as his usage percentage is a career-low 14.1 percent.

His ability to shoot the 3-ball has improved as well. On the year, Smart is converting 3-pointers at a 36.5 percent clip, whereas last season he shot 30.1 percent. Stevens even went as far as to say that Smart, along with center Aron Baynes, were the “Splash Brothers” of the Boston Celtics, as the duo had combined for 18 points beyond the arch in their recent victory against the Brooklyn Nets. Although Smart laughed after hearing this, he stated “We’re nowhere near that. We’re just taking good shots and making the shots that we get.”

Smart is also performing well in other areas on the court as well. So far this season, he is averaging 4.0 assists, 2.8 rebounds, and a career-high 1.8 steals per game. On top of that, he is only blamed for 1.4 turnovers per game, compared to last season’s 2.4 turnovers per game.

Smart is given an Real Plus-Minus of +4.15, which is the fifth-highest of any point guard in the NBA. This is most likely due to the fact that his Defensive Real Plus-Minus is +2.47, which is the highest of all point guards in the NBA. The second highest Kyle Lowry with +1.42.

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Marcus Smart is currently at a career-low for minutes with 26.7 per game. With his success so far this season, he should be given a permanent starting role with an increase in minutes.