Despite the Celtics underwhelming start to the season, the player development has been pretty solid to this point. Obviously we’ve seen what Jaylen has been capable of as a scorer to start the season and after every game I feel like Tatum continues to grow as he just had his best game as a playmaker against the Pistons (12 assists). But right now, Marcus Smart perhaps has the hardest job on the team and it requires him to be a wiser player.
With no Kemba, Smart has to continue with his role as the defensive leader on the team but he also has to increase his role on the offensive end as well. We’ve seen him gradually improve as a playmaker over the years, but now he has more pressure to run the floor, make the right decisions and he even has to score more to make up for the loss of Kemba.
So far he’s done pretty well with his new opportunity. He’s still done the vintage Marcus Smart things on defense, making the gritty steals and putting his body on the line for his team. I’m sure he feels that it’s his fault that the defense hasn’t been playing up to their potential, but I’m not really worried about the defense in the long run. On the offensive end he has put up a spectacular 6.7/1.9 assist/TO ratio, giving proof that he is mostly making the right decisions on the offensive end. We all knew that he was capable of throwing some flashy passes, but this is showing consistency. The assist average is a career high for him so far and currently ranks 12th in the league. Even though it is a small sample size I feel like he might be able to keep that up.
I hope after this year Smart gets more credit about his shooting. He had some rough patches earlier on in his career and built the reputation as a terrible shooter 3-point shooter. Which was fair because he did shoot below 30% two years in a row. But in 2018-19 he shot 36%, the next year 34% and now he’s starting out the season at 41%! I don’t expect him to stay at 41% but look how far he’s come! He recently explained that he has been focusing a lot on shot selection and it’s starting to show a good amount:
Later in the fourth, Smart wants to take this three. You can see it. Watching live, we all assumed this was going up. Instead, he holds it for a split-second and then dimes up Daniel Theis on the cut. Two plays that show off Smart being under control and playing...well...smarter! pic.twitter.com/jAFs5ZEcIb
After watching Marcus Smart play basketball for the last six years, seeing him make plays like this is pretty relieving. I mean in that second vidoe he passed open a wide open shot and he doesn’t usually do that. He doesn’t even pass up contested shots. It would’ve been a fine shot even if he missed because we trust him to hit those. But he chose to make the Smart play (sorry). These plays show how far he’s come in terms as a playmaker. It displayed his new patience as a playmaker and his upgraded IQ. I mean seeing plays like this from him is crazy, if you asked me three years ago that he would've been this great of a playmaker I would've disagreed. He has come so far and he deserves all the praise that is coming his way.
Marcus is currently coming off a 17 point and 10 assist double-double against the Pistons. He is questionable tonight (right thumb sprain) but if he plays he will find his hands full with a rematch against Kyle Lowry. They absolutely battled against each other in the ECSF, and I have gained a lot of respect from Lowry after that. I’m looking forward to their matchup tonight if Smart plays. If not, expect a lot of FastPP minutes because the Celtics will be down three point guards.
Jaylen Brown: "Marcus Smart is the heart and soul of this team."