Following the departure of Evan Turner in free-agency, the Boston Celtics are looking for a sixth man that can really pack a punch off the bench. The player that they need may be 22-year-old point guard, Marcus Smart.
The backcourt pairing widely projected in the starting line-up for the forthcoming season are Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley. Boston also boasts a wealth of options elsewhere in the reserve guard spots, with Terry Rozier, R.J. Hunter and rookie Demetrius Jackson also hoping to break into Brad Stevens’ rotation. Smart finds himself somewhere in-between.
The Texas native averaged 9.1 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3 assists over 27.3 minutes per game last year. Those numbers were relatively close to that of last year’s sixth man Turner, who played only one more minute than the former Oklahoma State standout.
There can be no doubt that Turner made a huge difference for the Celtics when he entered games. In a second unit that lacked players that could create their own shot, Turner specialised in just that. When offenses would break down, his teammates could dump the ball into his hands, allowing him to go to work as the shot clock runs down.
Although Smart doesn’t possess the same style of free-flowing offensive game, he does have the ability to use his strength against certain defenders in one-on-one scenarios. It is also expected that the addition of the versatile center Al Horford will lessen the need for the aforementioned types of plays, as he will work as a linchpin for the offense when on the floor.
As one of the most ferocious, physically gifted young perimeter defenders in the league, Smart offers something different for the team’s second unit. He can also guard multiple positions, creating match up nightmares for the opposition when he comes onto the court.
“If that’s what this team needs me to do, then that’s the role I’ll take,” Smart said. “With the absence of Evan, he’s going to be missed here. The things he brought to the team, he created his own jump shot. He created for others. Everybody else understands the role that he left us with and we have to step up as a team, I have to step up as an individual, but this team has to step up. And there’s a lot of players.
“We’ve got guys coming off the bench like Terry Rozier, who’s been real good in the offseason. And as you guys saw in the summer league, he’s been playing his butt off. Everybody has to step up and everybody understands that.”
The third-year guard went on to explain the elements of his game that he needs to improve:
“My decision-making, coming off ball-screens, working to get into the lane and finishing. And as everybody knows, still working on my jump-shot and becoming a more consistent shooter,” Smart said. “As I get in the paint, different looks [coaches] have been thrown at me. Working with these coaches, they throw different looks. If a guy does this, make this read. This read is that read what this happens and things like that.”
As for how far he thinks this team can go, Smart believes that Boston can go toe-to-toe with anyone in the NBA:
“We’re right there. We have the right pieces,” Smart said. “Any team can be beaten on any given night. We’ve just got to come out, as long as we believe in ourselves and stick together, anything is possible for this team.”
If the role of sixth man is given to Smart, it could be a responsibility that he relishes as he attempts to help take Boston to the next level.