Prominent Columnist Urges Celtics to Trade Away ‘Back-Seat Driver’ PG

Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics

Getty Marcus Smart of the Boston Celtics.

A pass-first point guard has been on Boston Celtics fans’ wishlist for a few years now, as they look to get the best out of star duo Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

Despite acquiring Dennis Schroder during the off-season, Marcus Smart has been the guard the Celtics have leaned on to initiate their starting unit’s offense. And, following a bumpy start to the season for the combative guard, he’s grown into his role as a playmaker while minimizing his trigger-happy shot selection.

But for all the good Smart does on offense, he will never be considered anything more than a defensive stalwart who can get hot for stretches from time to time. It’s rare to find a player as divisive as Smart, one who has half of the fan base mesmerized by his all-action style of play and the other half counting down the days until he’s traded.

It’s a weird dynamic, but that’s part of the “Marcus Smart Experience,” a phrase coined by media and fans alike that details the “No, No, YES!” brand of basketball the veteran guard provides. However, Smart has grown as a player in recent months, altering his game to suit the needs of the Celtics roster, and as such, has developed into more of a playmaker.

Against the Philadelphia 76ers on December 1st, Smart amassed eight assists for the third time in his last five games while ensuring his shots came within the flow of the offense. The Boston Globe released an article regarding the Celtics core rotation the following day.

Smart ‘Is the One to Go’

In Chris Gasper’s piece for the Boston Globe, he notes that the Celtics have three members of their core rotation; Tatum, Brown, and Smart. However, both Tatum and Brown are recognized All-Stars who are still improving, which leads Gasper to pinpoint Smart as the team’s most realistic trade chip.

“Smart is not the reason the Celtics are mired in mediocrity. He just has the misfortune of being the most talented, expendable piece. His heart and hustle are undeniable, but so are his shaky outside shooting (28.8 percent from three this season), inflated ego, and volatile mien. He yearns to turn a Big Two into a Big Three,” Gasper wrote.

Gasper continues to allude that trading Smart might be an addition by subtraction due to the Texas native’s big personality, “Suited to accept being a role player, Smart is not. He was the No. 6 pick in the draft and is the longest-tenured Celtic. He’s not going to take a back seat without being a back-seat driver,” Gasper continues, “What’s best for them is to hand them the reins and let them work it out without Smart’s sizable personality muddying the mix.”

Having just signed a contract extension, it’s unclear whether the Celtics would consider entering into trade discussions regarding Smart, who becomes trade eligible around January 17th. Furthermore, it’s unclear what the guard’s value is at this point, as he’s no longer considered one of the best bargain deals in the league, so the question then becomes, “does this trade improve the team?”.

Smart’s name being discussed in potential trades is nothing new, he’s been included in basically every mock trade since his second year with the team, and it would seem a new contract extension won’t stop the rumor mill from going to work.

Smart Has Improved As a Playmaker This Year

Smart has amassed some impressive passing numbers in his 21 games as the Celtics starting point guard. According to Cleaning The Glass, Smart is in the 82nd percentile among all guards for assist percentage (23.5%) and the 93rd percentile among all guards for an assist-to-usage ratio which is how often he assists on a play compared to how often he has the ball in his hands.

Furthermore, over his last five games, Smart has assisted his teammates 35 times, giving him an average of seven per game. Sure, an assist average of 5.8 per game isn’t anything to write home about, but it’s still Smart’s career-high, and there’s every reason to envision that number continuing to climb throughout the season.

Perhaps this was the Celtics plan all along – to allow Smart to flourish as a starting guard, increase his value, and then use him to bring in another piece to their never-ending puzzle.

However, President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens has always been a vocal supporter of Smart’s. It would be interesting to see him traded within Stevens’ first year in a front-office role. What is clear, though, is that Smart’s improvements may be what spells the beginning of the end for his time in Boston because if he outplays his latest contract, teams will be lining up at the door to trade for him again.



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