After seven years of solidifying himself as a defensive stalwart and team leader, Marcus Smart’s standing within the Boston Celtics organization appears to be somewhat in limbo.
On one hand, the former No. 6 overall pick looks to be the logical in-house replacement to Kemba Walker as the team’s starting point guard. Fresh off a season where he flaunted an improved skillset as a distributor (career-best 5.7 assists per game), Smart appears to be a seamless fit alongside stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Not to mention he evidently has his new head coach in his corner, as Ime Udoka referred to Smart as a “foundational piece” in an interview with 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Zolak and Bertrand Show.
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On the other hand, the Celtics have a looming contract decision to make regarding Smart. Eligible for a contract extension this summer, the Texas native would net approximietely $17.2 million in 2022-23 should the Cs lock him up for the long-term. Thing is, that remains uncertain at this time. The Ringer’s Bill Simmons believes that Boston will either extend or trade the veteran guard within the next six weeks. Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix reported that Smart’s trade market is “really good” and recently floated the possibility of a Smart-C.J. McCollum swap while appearing on the Bill Simmons Podcast.
With President of Basketball Operations, Brad Stevens, firm on improving the team’s roster to “get in the mix,” unloading Smart may be the quickest way of doing so for the Celtics — especially if dealing Brown is off the table. However, Boston Sports Journals’ John Karalis is here to put an end to that train of thought surrounding Smart, telling fans “Marcus Smart isn’t going anywhere” and for all those critical of his play, you might as well “get used to it” because the gritty veteran is apparently here to stay.
Karalis Sounds Off on Smart Detractors
For all the good Smart brings to the table — defensive prowess, budding playmaking skills, etc. — many tend to get caught up on his limitations. Drafted in 2014, Smart has failed to develop into a consistent scoring threat, while his at times spotty shot selection has been known to carve a year or two off of Bostonians’ life expectancy. Yet, despite those drawbacks, Karalis has a difficult time wrapping his head around the criticism that readily follows Smart.
I’m not gatekeeping fandom here — you can boo and cheer however you want — but I don’t get why anyone is mad at Smart for putting his body on the line and playing his butt off every night. He never slacks, he is very willing to do the dirty work, and he has expressed an affinity for the city every chance he gets.
The worst thing he does is take bad shots. I don’t get why some people are so mad.
That digression aside, there’s room for some debate about where Smart fits in this whole thing. I believe he can be a starting point guard for this team and that a consistent role where he initiates the offense that (a) forces him to give up the ball early in the shot clock and (b) lets him prepare for one role every night instead of filling in as a starter for anyone on the perimeter who misses a game is a good development for all parties.
Smart, a Pillar for the Celtics?
Udoka insinuated as much during his appearance on the Zolak and Bertrand Show, putting the projected starting point guard in the same hierarchy as Tatum and Brown when it comes to Boston’s superstructure.
“What Marcus [Smart] brings is invaluable: he’s the heart and soul of the team at times,” Udoka said on the Zolak and Bertrand Show. “He has that edge and toughness about him, so the things he brings to your team are the things you love every player to bring. You hate playing against him, but you want him on your side. He’s another foundational piece. He’s been here through thick and thin, seen the winning and seen some down times. What he does for Jayson and Jaylen is invaluable in my eyes.”