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In the middle of everything: where Marcus Smart is making a difference

On Monday night, Marcus Smart was 0-for-8 from the floor and missed all five three-pointers. He did tally 6 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block, but it was the contributions that didn't show up in the box score that have his teammates raving about the rookie's defense.

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The kid was the talk of training camp after yesterday's practice.  Here's a clip from

I don't think Marcus Smart will put up enough offensive numbers to be in the Rookie of the Year conversation, but a case could be made for him because of his stifling defense.  It's rare, but Charles Woodson won the Heisman and Justin Verlander won American League MVP three years ago.  Since getting drafted, he's been making an impression all summer and into the preseason, including putting USA Basketball's Derek Rose and Kyrie Irving in his vice grip.

I love these quotes from Brad Stevens:

"I love the way he impacts the game and our team. He's one of the very few guys who I think gets stronger defensively as the game goes along. That just wears on you, wears on you, wears on you, at the end of the game."


"I've coached a lot of really bright guys at a lot of different ages," Stevens said. "Very, very, very, very few at 20 years old can see the game and react to the game defensively like (Smart). Now he has the ability to react athletically, too. He can really move. He's very physical. He's got a good savvy for the game."

I know we're not talking numbers when it comes to Smart, but that's 3 "wears on you's" and 4 "very's" that Stevens uses to describe Smart's invisible impact on the game.  Kevin did a great job highlighting one of Marcus' best defensive stands against the Sixers and I wanted to show the little things that Stevens is talking about that won't help Marcus Smart fantasy owners this season.

Marcus Smart 1

Smart calls out a switch, slips through an (illegal) screen, cuts off the angle, and denies K.J. McDaniels.  With only 15 seconds left on the shot clock, he doesn't allow Luc Mbah a Moute's to get a pass off to one of the Philly's primary ball handlers on the floor, effectively eliminates the strong side of the court, and forces Mbah a Moute to play a little two-man game between Henry Sims.  That can't be good for the Sixers.

Marcus Smart 2

Just another example of how quick Smart's feet are and how strong his upper body is.  Admittedly, Tony Wroten got the best of the Celtics on Monday, but not on this play.  That ability to stay in front of his man without fouling won't show be counted as a missed shot, a steal, or a block, but having him and Avery Bradley ball-hawking the perimeter will help the lack of a shot blocker on the roster.

Marcus Smart 3

After trapping Wroten in the corner, Wroten has no choice than to pass out to Nerlens Noel, but the defensive play doesn't end there.  Noel tries to drive left on Tyler Zeller, but a quick jab at the ball by Smart makes him pick up his dribble.  It doesn't generate a turnover, so Smart is still hyper aware of his assignment.  His footwork is impeccable.  He's ready to contest the corner three and, as the GIF progresses, deny the back door cut.

Evan Turner was the star of the game with a near triple-double and 19 points, but you could argue that Smart's defense was the real game changer in the 20-point blowout.  Kevin Garnett had nicknamed Avery Bradley and Courtney Lee "the pitbulls" of the Celtics' back court a few years back, but with Lee in Memphis with former Boston terrier Tony Allen, it's great to see AB dogging opposing guards with another ferocious defender.

SBNation just recently gave us the ability to create these memes, but how about we use it to make a hustle board for Smart like the Rose Garden scoreboard tallies blocked shots, rebounds, and steals.  Like this:

Smart board

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