As talks are looming about getting the NBA back on track, the Celtics are looking to continue their playoff push. Celtics stars Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown can help the team into the playoffs, but the key player to look for is Marcus Smart. He is the longest-tenured player on the team and has shown his leadership qualities on and off the court this year.
In 2014, Marcus Smart was the sixth overall pick in the NBA Draft to the Boston Celtics. This pick came with some controversy as many fans believed he was not mature enough to be a crucial part of the Celtics. Five years later, Smart has become a captain for the Boston Celtics. He has grown as a player and as a competitor throughout his career as a Celtic.
Coming out of college, Smart’s defensive ability was one of his stronger assets. He is now one of the premier defenders in the NBA. Last season, Smart made the All-Defensive First Team and is making the same argument for this year’s honors as he is on pace to break his career-highs in rebounds and blocks. In two games against Kawhi Leonard, Smart limited him to nine points and a 21.3 percent field goal rate in about 13 minutes. Along with Leonard, Smart has limited players like Paul George, C.J. McCollum, LeBron James, and Bradley Beal to single-digit points against him.
Marcus Smart for DPOY 2019-20 🗳️ pic.twitter.com/S1EA3JUQ88
— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) March 5, 2020
Looking at Smart offensively this year, he is at a career-high in points per game (13.5) and in three-pointers made (128). On Jan. 18, Smart set a franchise record for most three-pointers made in a game. While the Celtics went on to lose the game to the Phoenix Suns by a score of 123-119, Smart showed his confidence in his shot. This game was a pivotal moment in his career season.
Although Smart is not leading the league in any categories, his role on the Celtics is not defined by his stats. He is the glue that brings the team together. Last season, it was evident that there was tension within the team that limited their potential all year long. This year, Smart has taken it upon himself to bring the team together throughout the season.
In an interview with NBC Sports, Marcus Smart said, “Some days we had it and some days we didn’t. So this year, I wanted to make sure the chemistry was there, the bonds were there and everybody was comfortable off the court. I think the best way is getting around each other as much as possible.”
— The Italian Stallion (@GCincinnato_22) January 23, 2020
Many players such as Jaylen Brown and Carsen Edwards have spoken up about the leadership role that Smart has taken on.
“You can tell [Smart] is all about the team,” Edwards told NBC Sports Boston. “He wants the best for us.”
The locker room is looking for Smart to be the captain who leads the Celtics into battle every night. His veteran presence and ambition to keep the team together through the tough games is the intangible skill that will help the Celtics get deep into their playoff run.
Year after year, Smart has been developing the “Celtic way” and growing as a player. This year, however, Smart is truly “bleeding green” and shining as the unsung leader of the Celtics.
Marcus Smart is certainly a player to keep your eye on when the NBA returns and the Celtics get back to work.