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Marcus Smart is an invaluable piece to a Celtics Championship run

Joe Stafford ´18, Contributor

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All the people dishing on Marcus Smart need to stop. He is a third-year player out of Oklahoma State, a ferocious defender and an evolving offensive playmaker. Now, I do understand the criticisms of most. His decision making is shaky at times, he continues to chuck up threes without a great shot to back it up, and yeah, he flops a lot. But people do not understand the importance of a Smart-type player on your team. The modern NBA is trending towards tall, skinny shooters a la Kristaps Porzingis. As enticing as these types of players are, they are lacking one thing… Muscle. To be truly successful in the NBA, you need players that can have a psychical impact on games, both inside and outside the post, and that player for the Celtics is Marcus Smart.

Think of a guy like Gary Payton. He and Shawn Kemp combined for an offensive and defensive nightmare for opponents. Why? Because Payton could shut down the perimeter and, in some cases, even guard the 3 or 4. Now let’s remember what Smart did in the playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks last year. In game 3, after Paul Millsap had been destroying a sorry Celtics frontcourt, Smart came in and shut down the 6’8, 254 pound Millsap. That put Boston back into the series even though they later lost it in Atlanta two games later. While Thomas stole the show that game scoring 42 points, Smart did the dirty, defensive work and ultimately won the game for the C’s. He put up 20 points, 2 steals, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists. He also made 2 threes that helped spark a stagnant offense in the third quarter. That seems like a pretty stuffed stat sheet to me.
A more recent example of Smart’s brilliance is when the Celtics took on the Houston Rockets on 12/6/16, a game over which a red-hot James Harden had complete control. In the closing minutes after a missed layup by Isaiah Thomas, all hope for the Celtics winning seemed lost as the Rockets held possession with time running out. James Harden attacked the rim and Marcus Smart sold the refs on a convincing dive that drew a flagrant 1 on Harden. Smart proceeded to make both free throws in hostile territory and, most importantly, gave his team a chance to win. Although people will point out that he had a bad flop in the closing seconds of the game, they would not have even been in that position without Smart. I also want to clarify one thing about flopping. Personally, I despise flopping. I do. I think it continues to ruin the game of basketball just like it ruined soccer. However, no matter how bad of a flop Smart takes, it is in the interest of helping the Celtics win.
One thing no one can argue about Smart’s game is his intensity and hustle, which is unrivaled by any other player on the Celtics roster. Night in and night out he gives his all to helping the team, not himself (unlike James Harden). Some Boston fans have even started to affectionately call him “The Cobra”, a tribute to his quick movements when stealing the ball. His tenacity and hustle is uncannily similar to that of Dennis Johnson, a Celtic great. Smart’s play type electrifies the second unit, and many fast breaks are always expected when Smart is out there because he forces turnovers. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the Boston Celtics would not have the best guard rotation in the NBA were it not for Smart.
Analysts and sports hosts alike have been buying into the rumors that Danny Ainge is going to make a blockbuster deal. Paul George, Jimmy Butler, Russell Westbrook, Demarcus Cousins, and Blake Griffin have all been rumored to be heading to Bean Town. Many thought Ainge was going to make a move during last year’s NBA Draft. Rumors at the start of the draft included a possible trade to Milwaukee for Khris Middleton and Greg Monroe, but it fell through. Why has Ainge continued to shoot down these trade proposals? Because he does not want to trade Marcus Smart. Almost every rumored trade scenario included Smart as an asset dealt, and Ainge refused to pull the trigger. Why doesn’t he? He knows Smart is a player that makes an impact every time he steps on the floor. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the emergence of Terry Rozier has made Smart expendable. Or maybe Danny realizes how much Smart means to a contending team and refuses to make a trade that could cost him a chance at banner 18. Heed my warning, do not sleep on Marcus Smart.

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Marcus Smart is an invaluable piece to a Celtics Championship run