More often than not you must look beyond the box score in order to truly understand the influence a player had on a basketball game. In Marcus Smart's preseason debut with the Boston Celtics, he had only 2 points on 0-of-8 shooting, with 6 assists, 3 rebounds, and 3 steals.
But Smart performed like a star playmaker on the defensive end by fighting through each and every screen to lockdown his man, getting his hands in the passing lanes, and by verbally communicating screens and pick-and-rolls to his teammates.
You don't get those goodies from the basic box scores.
The 20-year-old rookie looked like a wily old veteran out there tonight, as Boston defeated the Philadelphia 76ers, 98-78. Smart's terrific play isn't something that'll show up on the SportsCenter Top 10, but it is something that has impressed the coaching staff.
"Marcus' value and what Marcus does to affect the game is going to be hard to find on a stat sheet in a lot of games," said Brad Stevens of his rookie guard. "He's so, so tough defensively and he's one of these guys that I think will get stronger as the game goes along defensively. And that's hard to play against for the whole time."
An attribute that makes that Smart special as a young player is his ability to stick with his man off-ball. No matter who was matched up against, Smart was there like glue.
"He is exceptionally hard to screen, and when the ball's in front of him he's as good with his hands as anybody," Stevens explained.
One of Smart's best defensive possessions of the night came in the middle of the second quarter, which can be seen in the video above. It shows off all of his positive attributes and will not go unnoticed by the coaching staff, as this is the type of effort they need in order to win more than often they lose.
Smart picks up Tony Wroten full court, which forces Philadelphia into their offense eight seconds after the shot clock begins.
After Wroten makes the pass to initiate offense, Smart immediately signals to Avery Bradley that a down screen is coming his way. Bradley does his job by successfully fighting through the barrage of screens, removing his man as an option.
Meanwhile, Smart hovers around off-ball before hustling in to try and snatch the rebound. The 76ers manage to tip it their own way, but this is where Smart excels and saves the possession.
After the offensive rebound, Boston's entire defense is out of position, and Wroten is wide open since Smart was fighting for the ball. Still aware of his assignment, Smart pops his head around and springs his body right in front of the driving Wroten to draw a charge smack in the chest.
These are the plays that set Smart apart from most, if not all, rookies from the 2014 NBA draft class. There are veterans that are unable to make plays as exceptional as that.
As impressive as Smart's night was, Stevens knows he still needs to make more progress. "He still has to learn NBA actions that he's going to see all the time, and the lingo, and recognize actions, be aware off of the ball," said Stevens.
"[He will] play against a lot of the triangle concepts on Wednesday. These are great experiences for these guys and he'll learn a lot in the next seven games."
So far the Marcus Smart defensive experience has been a joy for all those involved, including his teammates. When asked what they think of his defensive effort, Smart said with a confident smirk on his face, "They love the way I play."
Boston Celtics fans will too if he continues playing at this level on the defensive end.