Avery Bradley says Marcus Smart will be one of the NBA's best guards

There is no denying the fact that Marcus Smart is one of the most influential players on the Celtics. The C's drafted him with the sixth pick in the 2014 NBA Draft and after a successful rookie season, the team is looking for him to take that next step. A lot of Boston's success this season will depend on how much Smart can improve and whether or not he turns into the franchise point guard.

That is a significant amount of pressure to put on the shoulders of a 21-year-old. Smart has showed improvement after playing in the summer league as well as five preseason games. He seems more confident running the offense and much more willing to take on a majority of the ball handling duties. This uptick in his play has prompted backcourt partner Avery Bradley to heap some pretty high praise on the second year stud.

Via Jay King of masslive.com:

"I know that Marcus is going to continue to get better," Bradley said after practice Monday. "And he's going to be one of the best guards in the NBA."

Largely because of Smart's defensive impact, some analytical models already consider him Boston's top player. If he continues to develop point guard skills and shooting accuracy, becoming a bona fide star isn't out of the question.

Continuing to improve his outside shooting and his ability as a passing point guard are going to be crucial for Smart's development into a star in the league. Having the ability to knock down three-point shots at a consistent rate will not only improving his field goal percentage and increase his scoring averages, but it will keep the defense honest. Being able to score from the perimeter will open up driving and passing lanes which Smart will have to take advantage of to maximize his talent.

Speaking of passing, Smart has showed that he can navigate the pick-and-roll much better than he did last season. Smart seems to have a better sense of where the ball needs to go and has been able to make an on-target pass to the right man at the right time. Becoming a better and more consistent playmaker is a huge factor in Smart's development moving forward and he has shown early signs of taking those crucial first steps.

Via Marc D'Amico of Celtics.com:

Nothing stood out more during Boston’s preseason than Marcus Smart’s play in the pick-and-roll. And nothing was more important.

Smart looks like a totally different player this season while running the NBA’s most popular play. He looks comfortable. He looks poised. He looks like a guy who’s seeing the floor and dictating the play to the defense, rather than the other way around.

Everyone knows that Smart must improve his shot, but what the Celtics really want to see from him this season is an improvement in pick-and-rolls and more aggressiveness in attacking the rim. Five preseason games have given us evidence that he’s already taken a huge step forward in the former.

Smart has the intangibles that can make him into a star-caliber player. While his shooting still leaves something to desired, he already has NBA-ready skills going into his sophomore season. His defense will earn him constant consideration for NBA All-Defensive team honors for years to come and his hustle in undeniable.

Honestly I am excited to see Smart take that next step toward being the homegrown superstar that we all want him to be.

Photo Credit: Brian Babineau/NBAE
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