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The Curious Case Of Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart is a key piece if the Celtics are going to be one of the teams competing for the NBA championship. This, prior to his 11 game absence, was really tough for me to say. I admittedly was a Smart hater, mainly because of his offensive liability. I have finally come around on the Smart bandwagon. It is blatantly obvious how much of a difference Smart makes on the defensive side of the ball for the Celtics. With him, the C's have a championship caliber defense. Without, they are just another middle of the road team on the defensive side of the ball, hoping they can outweigh it offensively. Many nights would prove that the offense just cannot carry the load at all times. Here is a comparison of Smart's impact using the 11 games prior to his injury and 11 games without him.

11 Games w/ Smart
Record: 7-4
PPG Allowed: 97.3
5 of 11 games allowing over 100 points

11 Games w/o Smart
Record: 6-5
PPG Allowed: 105.6
8 of 11 games allowing over 100 points

While the record might only be 1 game better with Smart in the lineup during the 11 game samples, giving up 105 ppg is simply not sustainable during an 82 game season and certainly not in the playoffs. Having Marcus Smart in the lineup allows the Celtics to slot bench players into the roles they should be in, adding depth to the guard position. Terry Rozier benefits from his return, as he can focus more on the offensive side of the ball. Smart has the versatility of coming off the bench while getting close to starter type minutes, which will be crucial come playoff time. He averages 30 minutes per game and out of the players in the NBA who average at least 30 minutes, Smart ranks number 1 in defensive rating. Put him on the floor with Tatum, who is ranked 3rd, Brown who is ranked 5th and Horford who is ranked 7th and you have a legitimate chance at taking over any game. 

It has become clear to me that Smart's offense is not as big of a problem as I once thought it was. With the emergence of Rozier scoring off the bench, this becomes even more clear. Looking at his numbers (35.7% FG, 29.9% 3pt FG, 73.6% FT), there is not much to be impressed about. What I have come to realize, however, is that much of the time he is on the court, either Kyrie Irving or Terry Rozier will be right along side him, more than making up for some of his offensive liabilities. This is why he is a perfect fit on this Celtics team. He doesn't need to be the number one option, nor should he be. More often than not he won't light up the box score and he doesn't need to. His game is centered around fundamentals and the ability to frustrate his opponent. If the Celtics are going to make a run deep into the postseason, Smart will need to be an X-factor alongside Kyrie Irving. Here's to hoping he decides not to punch anymore glass frames. 

For more, follow Ricky on twitter: @RickyG43_BSoT

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