Every year, Zach Lowe of ESPN.com compiles a list of the most watchable players in the NBA in a list he calls the "Marc Gasol All-Stars" and this year, our very own Marcus Smart is a starter on the team. Here's what Lowe had to say about Smart:
Marcus Smart, G, Celtics: The guard version of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist -- a maniac who plays all out on both ends, defends inside your jersey and snags offensive rebounds few at his position are even allowed to pursue. Seriously: You had better box him out, even if he's 25 feet from the rim. Stand upright and he's either sprinting around you, or blasting you out of the way.
Smart has rebounded 4.7 percent of Boston's misses this season, the second-best mark among rotation players listed at 6-foot-4 or shorter, behind only the scowling blur known as Russell Westbrook. Smart is a master at sneaking in from the weakside corner for put-back jams, and he'll even fly in from someplace off your television screen to snare a Boston miss.
On defense, Smart is nearly impossible to screen on or off the ball, perhaps the most viscerally ferocious among a cadre of Boston perimeter defenders who can make it hard to throw one simple pass along the 3-point arc. The only way to pick Smart off: If he somehow doesn't see it coming and slams right into it. And since he plays at a million miles per hour, those collisions come with a loud thud.
Smart has added some needed subtlety to his pick-and-roll game, with change-of-pace dribbles in either direction and a floater he's lofting with more confidence. But he has struggled shooting from all over the floor, and he tries to finish in crowds at the rim instead of kicking the easy pass out to an open shooter. Smart isn't a point guard yet; he has logged just 94 minutes without one of Evan Turner and Isaiah Thomas to run the offense, per NBA Wowy.
But it's early, and Smart is proof that effort alone is entertaining.
It's great to see Smart getting national attention for his tough hard-nosed style of play. Through my years of watching the Celtics, I can only name a few players that have battled on the court with the same style as Smart. If we're being honest, it's a pure "balls to the wall" all out effort every night from Smart. Some games this year have been decided solely on the fact that young guard was in the right place at the right time to snag the ball.
Marcus Smart's defense has been NBA ready ever since he stepped onto the floor last year as a rookie. He's improved that this year with a better knowledge of how to go around screens and stay in front of his man. The one knock on him would be his offense and shooting. He's gotten a little better getting to the basket and driving but there is still something left to be desired in regards to his aggressiveness. As for shooting, Smart was never supposed to be a great shooter but he did show some improvement in February shooting 33% from three in that month, the highest % of this season for him.
Even though Smart's game isn't complete yet, it's encouraging to see that he's becoming more of an entertaining player to watch around the league. Not many players in the NBA bring the toughness and all out effort that Smart brings forth each night and it's refreshing to see that he does it consistently, which has helped the Celtics win numerous ball games this year.
Image Credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
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