All eyes across Celtics nation seem fixated on Marcus Smart this year and for good reason. The guard is coming off a season that earned him All-Rookie Second Team honors and saw him show off a prowess for aggressive defense. Most importantly, Smart displayed the competitive fire needed to thrive in the NBA.
At 21 years old, Smart represents the hope that the C's hold an internal asset with star upside.
As a rookie, Smart fixated on defense in a very depth-oriented system. Brad Stevens recently stressed how overly impressed he was with Smart in that role:
#Celtics still as high on Marcus Smart as ever - Brad Stevens: "He's one of the best off-the-ball defenders, at his age, I've ever seen."— Scott Souza (@scott_souza) September 22, 2015
The intensity with which Smart plays basketball is a significant factor in his defensive mastery, but also yielded a frightening injury in a July Summer League game. Luckily the finger dislocations were not severe and occurred at a point in the offseason where he could take an extended period of time to recover.
That recovery, according to Danny Ainge, is complete:
Ainge said Marcus Smart's recovery from two finger dislocations is complete. PG has been playing full five-on-five.— Mark Murphy (@Murf56) September 22, 2015
Training camp is likely to be a ruthless grind for minutes and roster space. While Smart's status on the Celtics seems as locked as anybody's, there are questions regarding the guard situation.
Will Avery Bradley once again share the backcourt with Smart? Stevens recently praised both for their All-Defense award potential and the dynamic they bring together, does that solidify his favor of them as starters?
Beyond that, emphasizing Smart as the focal-point on both ends is something I want to watch for from Stevens. Isaiah Thomas and Evan Turner saw more ball-time per game than Smart last year and I continue to believe that Turner's presence on the team stunted Smart's growth as an offensive playmaker.
How can Smart ever be part of the Boston Celtics nucleus if he is handcuffed by other players? A 10-man rotation may be Stevens' cup of tea, but constant substitutions will only continue to blind us to Smart's star power.
Follow Bobby Manning on Twitter @RealBobManning
Photo Credit: Barry Chin, Boston Globe Bobby Manning 9/24/2015 07:34:00 AM Tweet Edit