Marcus Smart’s insertion as the Boston Celtics‘ lead-guard didn’t get off to the smoothest of starts this season. Yet, while he’s since come around to re-find his footing in the C’s reworked backcourt alongside Dennis Schroder and Josh Richardson, there are many who still perceive the team’s longest-tenured player’s offensive play as a detriment to the team.
Averaging his lowest scoring output and 3-point percentage in three seasons, and with a shiny new $77 million contract extension to boot, Smart is hands down the “most polarizing player” on Boston’s roster, according to Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley.
“For the bulk of his career, Marcus Smart has been a shooting guard who struggles to shoot. Now, he’s a lead guard who drops less than six dimes a night,” wrote Buckley. “Obviously, there’s plenty to his game that won’t translate into statistical offensive success, so he’ll always warrant some leeway with his numbers. That being said, it’s tough to label any starter with a grisly 38.2/28.4/75.6 shooting slash as anything other than an offensive liability.”
Smart’s Name Continues to Come up in Trade Talk
While Smart is certainly still no stranger to the all-too-often heat check, he has seen his play even out of late. As Mass Live’s Brian Robb so perfectly put it, “He still has the devil on his shoulder telling him to take that pull-up 3 from 27 feet, but he’s better at ignoring it.”
Over his last seven games, the former No. 6 overall pick has averaged 14 points and 7.4 assists. In two of his last three games, he’s knocked down at least 37.5% of his attempts beyond the arc and scored a minimum of 20 points.
“Smart’s supporters will say the raw numbers lack nuance, and things like making the extra pass, stepping in to draw chargers and even speaking up when he deems it necessary elevate his impact far above what the stat sheet says,” Buckley noted. “Still, there’s a reason that virtually every trade machine maestro chooses to include Smart when hypothetically sending an impact player back to Boston.”
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Is Smart Boston’s Best Trade Chip?
The fact of the matter is, Smart is very much who he is. He’s far from an elite offensive player. However, he’s a high-end role player that is tenacious on the defensive end and capable enough offensively to improve any title-contending roster — which is why he is continually engulfed in trade chatter.
For as much as trade machines may want to unload Jaylen Brown, chances are the Celtics will run the course with him playing 1B to Jayson Tatum until they literally can’t. The pair’s upside and age (each 25 years old or under) make the duo practically untouchable. From there, Boston has very few intriguing trade chips — that is, unless you consider Juancho Hernangomez “intriguing.” Al Horford has been superb this season but is midway to 40. Robert Williams has played himself into Boston’s future. Josh Richardson’s name will continue to receive trade chatter, but the slumping efforts of Payton Pritchard and Aaron Nesmith make him a worthy contributor in Ime Udoka’s current rotation.
Smart isn’t your typical lead guard. So, of course, the thought of replacing him with a player of Dejounte Murray’s sky-high upside has crossed the minds of many. With that said, you can question whether he is best suited to be Boston’s starting point guard, but there’s little doubt that having his presence at their disposal is a plus for the Celtics.