Marcus Smart's least-heralded skill & his future

Marcus Smart made Zach Lowe's 10-things-I-like-and-don't-like list this week. His like about Marcus Smart's play was his passing ability, and we agree. Marcus' skill at getting the ball to teammates in the right spots at the right time just keeps improving. This is what ESPN's Zach Lowe had to say:

It's an NBA riddle: How can a wing shooting 32 percent end up on the positive side of the plus-minus ledger every night? Boston fans would point to Smart's bullying, chest-to-chest defense, and the balls-to-the-wall plays -- flying in from nowhere for rebounds and saves -- that inspire teammates. (Many of those fans would wish not to consider the possibility that some of those plus-minus numbers are random noise that comes with playing on a very good team, and that historically bad shooting is harmful on certain nights.)

The debate has given short shrift to Smart's passing -- a must for any non-shooter who has the ball so much. Smart has grown in that department every year. He was wild and uncertain at first. By last season, he had mastered the simple stuff -- obvious drive-and-kick reads, pick-and-pop passes to Al Horford.

Now, he's thinking one step ahead, manipulating defenses:

A year or two ago, I never envisioned Marcus developing this high level of passing ability. I viewed him as a defender, rebounder and steals guy. His assists are very much needed on the Celtics. Lowe's quote about "thinking one step ahead" defines his improvement over last season.

In the video below, Smart's behind-the-back pass contains a bit of showboating, but it had a purpose, and it succeeded.

All Boston Celtics fans, including myself, are wondering about Marcus' future here. Some players are easily defined. Smart is not. He is enigmatic. Despite his atrocious shooting accuracy, he has true value for the team. He makes key plays and helps win games. Here is Lowes take on Marcus and his future:

Smart's free agency this summer will be fascinating. The league doesn't quite know what to do with him. He's a polarizing player. Given Boston's financial commitments to Horford, Gordon Hayward, and Kyrie Irving -- plus the play of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, both ahead of Smart now in the organizational pecking order -- a rich offer sheet could present Boston with a thorny dilemma.

Excellent analysis but a real worry for Celtics fans. This is the reality. Somethings gotta give. I have to believe Danny Ainge truly wants Marcus back next year and is hoping that his market value is low and that Smart will accept an offer that Boston views as reasonable. If it doesn't work, I cannot possibly imagine Marcus playing on another team next year.

Follow Tom at @TomLaneHC

Photo via Matt Stone/Boston herald
Video via GamesOnTV