According to the 2-time Celtics champion, 1981 NBA Finals MVP Cedric Maxwell there are only two players he’d rank above Smart as the greatest defenders Boston has ever seen. He talked about Smart’s legacy with the Celtics in his latest episode of the Cedric Maxwell Podcast.
Cedric Maxwell On Marcus Smart Being The Greatest Celtics Defender: ‘Garnett, Russell Are The Only Ones Better’
“Other than those two big guys – when I think of (Kevin) Garnett, and (Bill) Russell are the only ones better, two defensive players, I’ve ever seen other than Marcus Smart,” Maxwell said. “Who else are you thinking about? The only one I think about from that standpoint that I played with was Dennis Johnson.
“Dennis Johnson isn’t as good as Marcus Smart; reason being, Marcus Smart takes on more defensive responsibility.”
As Max’s co-host, I threw out some other candidates for him to choose from, including 3-time NBA All-Defensive First Team recipient, 3-time Celtics champion Kevin McHale and Robert Parish – two members of Boston’s ‘Big 3’ that was led by all-time great Larry Bird.
“‘Chief’ (Robert Parish) was a good defender but when I say Russell and Garnett – they were in a league by themselves,” Maxwell explained. “Maybe I should just say, ‘under 7-feet tall.’ I can’t think of anybody who has played defense like Marcus has since he’s been in this league and he’s the heart and soul of what they do defensively.”
Cedric backed up his point by citing examples of humongous defensive stops at the end of various games, heads-up plays that only Marcus can pull off for Boston. And as for the Celtics fans complaining about Smart’s inconsistent offense, Max believes Smart’s shown a vast improvement; adding the defense Marcus provides makes up for his, at times, unwhelming offense.
Whether you agree with it or not, Smart has, at least, thrust himself into the conversation. At 28, Marcus is already recognized as one of the league’s fiercest defenders and is arguably the NBA’s best-defending guard.
Marcus Smart, 2021 Defensive Player Of The Year?
Coming off of his second consecutive NBA All-Defensive First Team selection, Smart certainly has more than just a shot at etching his name, alongside the two defensive giants in Russell and Garnett, into the Celtics history books as one of its greatest defenders. Realistically, Smart has a puncher’s chance at the top but he still has time to come in between Garnett and Russell.
Russell, an 11-time champion, 5-time MVP, is revered as the greatest defender the league has ever witnessed while Smart, 28, still has time to finish with an extensive defensive resume that would rival Garnett’s. But it won’t be easy.
Garnett, who called it a career in 2016, played 21 seasons, made nine All-NBA First Defensive Teams, and was crowned Defensive Player Of The Year in 2008 while leading the Celtics to a championship. That’s a tough act to follow.
However, a Defensive Player Of The Year award could be coming his way soon. Last season, Smart tied with Milwaukee Bucks’ Brook Lopez for third place with just over 3% of the votes.
Bucks’ superstar Giannis Antetokunmpo took home the award with over 70% in-house poll votes and Los Angeles Lakers All-Star center Anthony Davis finished second (20%), according to The Athletic.