Usually a guy gets called a 'point forward' because they're essentially a terrific ball handler in an oversized body (LeBron James, Magic Johnson, maybe someday when he finally plays Ben Simmons), but we might have to call Marcus Smart a point forward for an entirely different reason. He's a power forward in a point guard's body. At 6'4 no one is going to mistake Smart for a big man on the basketball court based on his size, but his play in the post might make you forget all about that.
Kevin O'Connor of the Ringer shined a light on Smart's effectiveness on the block back in December, as people started to notice the Celtics utilizing him more and more in the post:
Celtics are posting up Marcus Smart a bunch. They score an elite 1.4 points per possession on Smart post ups (shot or pass) per @SynergySST.— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) December 25, 2016
Last night Marcus put on full display his effectiveness on the block as the Celtics attacked Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving again and again. Irving was no match for Smart, and as the game progressed the Cavaliers began to collapse their defense onto Marcus to attest for him getting into the paint at will - that's when he's at his best:
The pass from Smart... Right on the money 👌 pic.twitter.com/Fyaz58QUtX— Boston Celtics (@celtics) March 2, 2017
Smart dished out 8 assists last night, most of them coming after he backed his way into the low block. He's terrific at finding cutting teammates and open three point shooters once defenders come to help whoever Marcus is abusing in the post. He's been a big part of Kelly Olynyk's improved play over the last month or so as the Celtics big man excels off the ball cutting to the basket and knocking down open threes. When Marcus draws in the defense those opportunities leave open shooters/lanes aplenty.
FUN FACT: Via NBA.com Marcus Smart is 2nd in the NBA in passing out of the post with a 14.2% assist rate on all touches in the post (minimum 50 post-ups), trailing only Steph Curry (14.5% assist rate).
Now while Smart is becoming a lethal weapon on the low block offensively we've all come to love Smart for his defense prowess. Although Avery Bradley got all the love for the way he locked down Irving at the end of last night's game, Smart was busy himself denying 6'10 Tristan Thompson from getting to the rim:
Great job here by Marcus Smart standing his ground against the much-larger Tristan Thompson: pic.twitter.com/yHszHok5gj— Taylor C. Snow (@taylorcsnow) March 2, 2017
I'm gonna go out on a limb and say there's very few point guards in the NBA today who can do that, maybe just one (if Paul Millsap were reading this he'd he nodding right now). A quick look back at Marcus' draft class, 2014, will reveal that he is 2nd in VORP (Value of Replacement Player) behind only Nikola Jokic:
Not too shabby. I won't pretend to know how good of a measuring stick VORP is in the NBA (it is pretty effective in Baseball), although in a basic definition it is measured through the box score on the impact a player has per 100 team possessions vs a 'replacement player' (valued at .02). So somebody with a high VORP makes a lot of plays? You could maybe say game-winning types of plays? Sounds right.
While Avery might be a better on ball defender for guards and small forwards (he might be the best in the NBA) Marcus can defend almost any player on the floor at any given time. That kind of versatility can't be taught and is so valuable in Brad Stevens defensive system that relies heavily on switching. With AB returning to the starting lineup from a lengthy hiatus, Celtics rookie Jaylen Brown will again join Smart and Olynyk in the Celtics 2nd unit - one that looks more and more formidable as the season progresses.
Photo Credit - Celtics.com/GETTY Images
Follow Mark on Twitter: @MarkAL401 Mark Allison 3/02/2017 01:27:00 PM Tweet Edit