With awful shooting, why is Marcus Smart so valuable to Celtics?
Marcus Smart gets bashed a lot, but not by me. And it won't start now. His shooting from anywhere on the floor is not just poor, it is awful. But as a reserve, he gets starter's minutes. He averages 30.6 MPG, fourth on the team behind Jaylen Brown, Al Horford and Kyrie Irving. Coach Brad Stevens' tenet is defense gets you on the floor and offense keeps you there.
Smart is shooting a horrendous .281 field goal percentage, rated 400th in that category. Even Lonzo Ball, rated #392, has a better average of .303 from the floor. So the question is - if efficient offensive production keeps a Celtic on the floor, why is such a horrible shooter out there so long? There are many parts to the answer, but here is CBS Sports' Matt Moore on a comparison between Marcus and Draymond Green:
In some ways, he's like a poor man's Draymond Green, who the Celtics face Thursday in the week's titanic battle of the two best teams in the league at the moment. Green is a better finisher but is a career 33 percent 3-point shooter. Like Smart, he's defined by his bullying, overwhelming defense and like Smart, his sublime passing is often overlooked. Both operate as the emotional engines of their teams.
Given his defensive prowess and the way he provides an emotional energy to the team, it's clear it doesn't matter how Smart shoots.
He just makes the Celtics better.
Moore mentions "sublime passing", and I like that. Smart's distribution of the ball is beautiful. And he leads the team in assists with 5.5 APG. It seems, for the time being, that teams refuse to leave him alone and still treat Marcus as a threat from distance. As bad as his shooting is, he can still make clutch shots, and his passes to open teammates can be on the money. My feeling is that he certainly needs to raise his shooting percentage, but not considerably.
Marcus Smart was 1 of 8 tonight and the Celtics had a 110 offensive rating with him on the floor.
And people will say this is about noise, but it’s happening EVERY game.
I often compare Marcus to former Celtic Chauncey Billups. Chauncey's FG% in his first three years in the League ranged between .337 and .390. His career average is .415. He shot .394 from the floor in his seventh NBA season, and he won a Championship that year. He was a five-time All-Star and Finals MVP. Pretty good for a poor shooter. In a previous CelticsLife article, one of our readers, Andrew Jones, broached this idea as a possible reason for Smart's poor shooting, and I agree: "I think he hasn't mastered how to keep that same aggression on defense and be poised enough to hit the shots he hits in practice."
Marcus shoots his free throws at a .767 clip. He rebounds and defends with ferocity and passion. His passing is near-perfection. But he seems to have difficulty transitioning from ferocious defense and rebounding to shooting the ball with poise and consistency. That will get better, but it doesn't have to get a hell of a lot better. Frankly, even if his FG% stays where it is, unless his defenders start backing off him, the Celtics will keep winning with Smart getting starter's minutes on a great team. Brad Stevens is no man's fool. He knows what he is doing.