Marcus Smart putting a new meaning on positionless basketball: “I consider myself a stretch-6”
Photo of Marcus Smart courtesy of David Richard/USA Today Sports
It is not breaking news that Marcus Smart is one of the best defenders in the NBA. He finally received national recognition by earning All-NBA defense honors after last season.
If you follow Smart on your television screen when the Boston Celtics are playing defense you’ll be really impressed with the nuances of his game. He’s like a Swiss army knife on that end of the floor. Smart doesn’t define himself by a position; he views himself as a stretch-6 which is a bit funny, but also fitting.
“I consider myself a stretch-6,” Marcus Smart jokes of him being called upon to match up with Kevin Love.
You would expect a 6’4” guard to defend guys similar in size, but he does not stop there. He often finds himself on larger players. And he not only competes, he excels. Just ask Kevin Love, who had to deal with Smart in their last game.
Asked Kevin Love about Marcus Smart as an individual defender and the job that he against him on the block tonight. Awesome answer here. pic.twitter.com/fELsvRT4Da
I could flood this post with dozens of video examples of Smart succeeding while defending guys that are a half-foot taller than him. Below is a simple example of how he uses his guard skills to stop a guy who is averaging 19 points and 14 rebounds per game this season.
I mean, we Celtics fans hve seen this before. Y'all outside of Boston need to realize Marcus Smart really is a power forward, and he can stop other power forwards: pic.twitter.com/35hsmXLqWT
He isn’t going to let Love get by him once Love faces him up. Prior to that, Love was pushed out too far from the block by Smart to really back him down (not that he would have success there either). Then when Love figures he’s got nothing going, he tries to make a pass but Smart gets his quick hands on the ball causing the turnover.
According to NBA.com, Smart had 8:28 match-up minutes on Love last game. That is by far the most minutes one player on the Celtics has guarded an opposing player in a game this year. But you’ll also find him guarding starting guards like RJ Barrett for a few trips down the court, and then later in the game he’ll be guarding a bruising power forward like Julius Randle. The results are often the same: players left shaking their head.
In the opener, Smart guarded both Ben Simmons and Al Horford for multiple possessions, causing them to go a combined 0-4 with 3 turnovers. He also led the team in match-up minutes on Giannis Antetokounmpo against the Bucks, where he caused the league MVP to turn it over 3 times. Just another day at the office.
It doesn’t matter who is coming to town, Smart is going to take the toughest defensive assignment and he’ll just handle it himself.
Marcus Smart on waving off a double-team from Daniel Theis, and insisting on guarding Kevin Love alone: "“I’m such a great defender and believe in myself, so it’s about pride at that point. I call the double team off any chance I get. I can take care of myself.”