Celtics guard Marcus Smart was rewarded for the best month of his career by being named as the Eastern Conference Rookie of the month for February.
Smart averaged a well-rounded 9.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.6 steals for the month. His minutes were boosted to a career-high 32.5 per game in February, which was a conference-high among rookies. Smart's insertion into the starting lineup early in the month helped launch Boston into the thick of the playoff hunt, as the Celtics won 7 of their first 10 games with the rookie serving as the starting point guard.
Celtics Marcus Smart named Eastern Conference rookie of the month for February.— Chris Forsberg (@ESPNForsberg) March 5, 2015
Some of the highlights of the month for Smart included dishing a career-high 9 assists against the Miami Heat, grabbing a career-high 10 boards against the Denver Nuggets and swiping a career-high 5 steals against the Sacramento Kings.
Smart is trending in the right direction, but still has a lot to work on. While his production has increased, his efficiency has plummeted, as he shot only 35.4% from the field in February. His stroke from beyond the arc that had shown such progress in recent months took a discouraging step back, as he hit only 26.8% of his three-point shots last month. He is showing more aggressiveness attacking the rim, earning nearly 4 trips to the free-throw line per game last month, but is still hitting only 65.9% of his attempts from the charity stripe.
Boston hasn't had a player win Rookie of the Month honors since Adrian Griffin in November 1999. A certain point guard that the Celtics shipped out of town earlier this season was never recognized with this award in his rookie season. That guy turned out to be pretty good anyway, but Smart's career is arguably off to an even better start.
After a rocky start to the season that was interrupted by injury, Smart has bounced back to settle into a key role for this Celtics team. His 10.87 PER ranks 8th among rookies with at least 30 games played this season, so if Smart continues to progress in his new role as a starter then he could prove to be among the best players from his draft class.