The Boston Celtics are currently competing in the NBA Finals. Their core of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart had previously made two Eastern Conference Finals runs, but was unable to get over the hump until this year.
After years of running back a similar team, Boston made some crucial changes this year. They hired Ime Udoka to be the new head coach, brought back Al Horford and traded for Derrick White, and also put the ball in Smart’s hands as the team’s point guard.
Smart has been an integral part of Boston’s squad for the better part of the last decade, but this was the first season he’s been trusted as the team’s point guard. And according to an anonymous Eastern Conference GM who spoke with Sean Deveney of Heavy.com, the team failed him in that regard.
“In one respect, you have to say, good for them for giving him the keys and seeing what he can do,” the GM explained. “But you also have to say, hey, what took you so long?”
The Celtics drafted Smart in 2014, but they mainly played him at the shooting guard position. According to the GM, this was due to their desire to have a big-name point guard.
Celtics Insisted on Big-Name Point Guards
Over the years, the Celtics have commonly had expensive point guards on the roster. The anonymous GM pointed to this as a primary reason why Smart has been delegated to the shooting guard role, where he’s struggled to play efficient basketball.
“You know they went out and tried so hard under Danny [Ainge] to get that big-time point guard, Kyrie [Irving] and Kemba [Walker],” said the GM.
During Smart’s time in Boston, they’ve had Rajon Rondo, Isaiah Thomas, Irving, and Walker as their starting point guard. There was a small period of time before Thomas emerged as a star where Smart was a primary ball-handler, but he shared the duties with Avery Bradley.
However, heading into this season, Udoka said that the Celtics would be putting the ball in Smart’s hands more frequently, as he had asked for that responsibility.
Udoka Names Smart as Starting Point Guard
Before the season began, Udoka hinted that the Celtics would be making Smart their starting point guard. He said they planned to put the ball in his hands more and that he was asking for just that.
“Put the ball in Marcus’ hands a lot more, he’s kind of asked for that,” Udoka told reporters. “I think he’ll be a great facilitator as well.”
Smart enjoyed a successful regular season this year as the team’s point guard. He averaged 12.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, and a career-high 5.9 assists on 41.8% shooting from the field and 33.1% shooting from deep. He also took home the Defensive Player of the Year award.
The point guard has stepped things up in the playoffs, too. During Boston’s 2022 playoff run, he’s averaged 15.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, and 1.3 steals while shooting 40.5% from the field and 34.1% from distance.
He’s thrived as the team’s starting point guard, but as the GM noted, it’s a bit baffling that it took the Celtics this long to make the change.