Nets’ 2-Time All-Star Fans the Flames of Celtics Starter’s Award Bid

Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics

Getty Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics

The Boston Celtics have two games remaining of their regular season, which means we’re getting closer to learning if Marcus Smart has done enough to earn himself Defensive Player of the Year honors.

A lot has been said about Smart’s candidacy for the individual defensive award this year, from both sides. Some people believe it’s been far too long since a guard was credited for their excellent defense, while others are steadfast in their belief that centers are the most impactful defenders on a team.

Yet, according to Andre Drummond of the Brooklyn Nets, no player deserved the award more than Marcus Smart, with the multi-time rebounding champion stating the veteran guard is “a menace on and off the ball.”

Right now has Smart as the odds on favorite to win the Defensive Player of the Year award, with the 28-year-old multiple points ahead of his closest rival; the Miami Heat‘s Bam Adebayo.

Smart Believes Guards Deserve More Recognition

The last guard to win an individual defensive award was Gary Payton in 1996, making him the only point guard to ever earn individual defensive recognition. Smart is out to change that and has been very vocal about his belief that guards have been overlooked in the voting for far too long.

“Let’s think about it. As a guard, especially on the team that switches a lot, especially on the No. 1 defensive team, you are worried about every single player. And here’s the thing: When you see Defensive Player of the Year, that means he can guard all five spots. Nothing against Rudy, but Rudy can’t guard all five spots. I can guard all five spots and I have been doing it. I’ve done it very well,” Smart said in a recent interview with ESPN’s Tim Bontemps.

The best way to judge a player’s ability is by gauging the impact they have on their team, and on an opposing offense. Smart is a legitimate disruptor, who consistently forces opposing players out of their comfort zone. Furthermore, the Oklahoma State alum is capable of guarding every position, and can even bang with centers on the low-block.

On Thursday, April 7, Smart proved his credentials as he registered a block on the Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo. Not many guards are switching onto bigger, stronger opponents, let alone blocking their shot at point-blank range around the rim, and it’s those moments that have led to the longest-tenured Celtic becoming the front-runner amongst fans and media.

Smart’s Contract Extension Looking Like a Steal

It’s hard to quantify Smart’s value to the Celtics, and it was especially difficult before this season. To begin the year, the veteran guard was a career sixth man that struggled on offense, yet his presence on the court consistently led to winning plays.

So, when Smart was eligible for a contract extension this past summer, figuring out what his impact was worth was a difficult task. Yet, Brad Stevens felt comfortable handing the Texas native a four-year deal worth $76 million. At the time, that extension felt a little high, but after the season Smart’s had as the team’s starting point guard, it looks like Boston will continue to boast one of the best value contracts in the NBA.

We all know that Smart is an elite defender – that much has been true for his entire career in the league. But, as a starting guard, Smart has developed into an exceptional lead guard who excels with a pass-first mentality. Nobody saw those developments coming, and the improvements have been highlighted due to the guard being far more selective with his shot attempts.

No matter what happens with this season’s Defensive Player of the Year voting, Smart has cemented himself as the Celtics starting guard of the future and has begun to change the narrative around defensive-minded guards. This season has been exceptional for the former sixth-overall draft selection, and if he continues to play at his current level, we will be having similar DPOY conversations for the next three or four seasons.


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