Marcus Smart has been the best defender on the Boston Celtics roster for multiple years at this point.
It’s part of the point guard’s calling card. You know that when Smart is on the opposing team, you’re in for a tough night, and will probably be coming away with some bruises. Yet, despite being part of multiple top-10 defensive teams, the Texas native has never been considered for the Defensive Player of the Year award.
Sure, Smart has been selected to two NBA All-Defensive First Teams, but he’s yet to win any individual awards for his relentless style of play. However, Seth Partnow of The Athletic believes this might be the season that the Celtics starting guard finally gets the recognition he deserves.
“We’ve been so accustomed to DPOY being a big-man award that the increased value of a point guard who can not only survive but prosper in a defense in which he is called upon to guard much larger players with regularity is overlooked. If Adebayo had played just a few more games, I would probably lean toward him given the stark contrast in Miami’s performance with and without him on the floor.
However, Smart will end up playing around 500 more minutes. Considering how much he unlocks and excels in Boston’s scheme, and maybe because he bullied me on Twitter, my pick as of today would be the Boston guard,” Partnow wrote.
Smart Has Discussed His DPOY Candidacy Before
When Smart discussed the lack of guard representation in Defensive Player of the Year discussions, he’s not just talking about himself. Mike Conley of the Memphis Grizzlies, Kyle Lowry of the Miami Heat, and the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Patrick Beverly are just a few other guards who also play elite-level defense but often find themselves overlooked at the end of the year.
Of course, Smart believes that he’s on another level compared to his peers, and judging by his performances this year, as the lead guard on the best defensive team in the NBA, he’s probably got a point. But, the 28-year-old is championing for change to even the playing field, both for him and guards of the future.
“It does suck for us guards who, you grind, you sacrifice your body,” Smart said. “You’re the one diving on the majority of the loose balls. You’re the one taking the charges, you’re the one taking the bumps and bruises and sending it to the big man and making sure as an individual you do everything you can before he gets to that backline of the defense,” Smart told the media in a recent post-game press conference.
According to DunksAndThree’s.com Marcus Smart has a +2.6 defensive estimated plus/minus, ranking him among the top 3% of defenders in the NBA this season. Considering the position the veteran guard plays, and how his presence allows the Celtics to perform their defensive duties to an elite level, it seems logical that his name is being discussed in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation.
Robert Williams Backs Smart For DPOY
Another member of the Celtics who is getting consideration for an individual defensive award is Robert Williams. The fourth-year big man is currently second in the NBA for blocks per game and is the anchor on which Boston’s defensive foundation has been built.
Williams, however, is of the belief that Smart deserves to be recognized as the NBA’s most impactful defender this season. The Louisiana native also noted how Smart’s effort levels and commitment to winning the hustle plays are having a galvanizing effect for the rest of the Celtics roster.
“I think that anyone on the court making an impact should be able to win Defensive Player of the Year. Marcus Smart – that’s how I feel about that,” Williams said, “Look at what he’s doing, look at what he’s been doing since I’ve been in the league. Played with him my whole career in the league, my energy, I base it off his defensive presence. When I see him attack the other team, I wanna follow that routine, so he’s got my vote, 100%”
Regardless of if Smart wins any individual accolade at the end of the regular season, he’s starting to change the narrative around how we view the defensive impact of guards in the NBA. And while opinions may take time to adapt, Smart is building a bridge for guards of the future to walk across, and that’s more valuable than any single-season award.