Marcus Smart's final season at Oklahoma State didn't go as planned. There aren't any banners hanging from the rafters in Gallagher-Iba arena to define his career, but hustle, hard work, leadership, and his refusal to quit will forever cement his legacy as one of the greatest players to ever step foot on the white maple. A legacy he's looking to carry into the NBA.
"It was crazy," Smart said after hearing that the Boston Celtics had selected him as the sixth overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. "I had to stop myself from tearing up - I know my mom couldn't [stop herself from crying]. That was my dream, to play at the highest level and to be around the best players in the world. And my name was called, and now I have that opportunity."
Smart has no plans of letting that opportunity go to waste either. He's already become known as an absolute beast on defense, but his rookie season may just be defined by his sudden ability to hit from behind the arc. Yes, you read that right. Smart has developed a decent 3-point shot, hitting above 35% on the season so far!
The Celtics are just 1.5 games back from the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference, and as Boston makes a run for the post-season Marcus is starting to see an increased role on the court. We reached out to Celtics Blog to get their perspective on how Smart's game has transitioned. WJSY was kind enough to give us some insight.
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I wasn't familiar with Smart's game at Oklahoma State, but he's delivered on his promise as an A+ defender for the Celtics. It's rare to see such a young player figure out the pro game so quickly on D. The kid cannot be screened and he has this uncanny ability of getting into passing lanes and recovering on to his man quickly. He's paired nicely with Avery Bradley to form a pretty ferocious back court. It's easy to take for granted a single player's impact on defense, but the Celtics haven't been the same since the departure of Kevin Garnett two years ago. However, Smart has shown glimpses of being that kind of middle linebacker that Boston has been missing.
On the offensive side of the ball, Brad Stevens has been very deliberate with his development of his young players, including Smart. Because of his size, Smart was known as a hard-charging bulldozer of a point guard in college, but a lot of that has been negated in the NBA. He didn't have much of a jump shot and to have success at this level, he's got to be able to hit the 15-footer and extend his range out to the three-point line (see Rajon Rondo). You can see how Smart and Stevens have put an emphasis on getting his perimeter game up to par at the pro level; more than half his shots since the Rondo trade have been from beyond the arc and he's steadily improved since his minutes have gone up. He's starting to drive and dish more and when he can put the two together, he'll become the point guard that Ainge saw in him last summer with the #6 pick.
The Celtics currently hold quite a few draft picks and are a looking to build the team around a star player. Will Smart be that player? It's too early to tell, but he certainly shows the promise. If he keeps developing the all the areas of his game like he's improved his jump shot, he'll become the All-Star we've always known he could be. Here's a look at his stats on the season, numbers that were trending up before the All-Star break!
Despite the growing hype around Smart, Marcus was snubbed from the NBA's Rising Stars Challenge. Whether his absence from the sophomore and rookie showcase is to give a recovering leg injury extended time to heal, or if he was simply overlooked due to the Celtics slow start to the season, Smart deserved to be named. His numbers are adequate, but anyone that's seen him play knows one thing, his impact on the game can't be fully quantified in the numbers. A factor that's recently lead to him receiving more minutes than any other guard on the roster, and many fans wondering, Is Marcus Smart the next Celtics' All-Star?