Marcus Smart has not been shooting very well lately.
His struggles continued in the Raptors game, where he scored just one basket on eight shots and missed his only three-pointer. He was 1-for-11 in the game prior to that with five missed three-pointers. On March 15, he made one three-pointer and missed seven others. His overall shooting percentage for March is down to 28.6%, and his three-point shooting percentage is a dismal 17%. That's Evan Turner bad, and it's worse because he's still shooting a high volume of three-pointers.
There was some hope that Smart had "fixed" his shot in the now famous snow-day practice session. His shooting percentages climbed every month this year, topping out at 32.7% from the three during February. With his shot bottoming out after the All-Star break, one has to wonder if he's simply going to be a streaky shooter at best as his career progresses.
The struggles have clearly frustrated him and fans alike.
"I thought he was a different type of guy. I saw in him as a young player last year, a leader to be, a real team leader type of guy. Not an agitator," said Ryan. "He plays hard. We know that. But there’s a big difference than playing hard and being a jerk. He does have a disturbing tendency. The shot isn’t improving. I’m very disappointed because I was very much, as you say, an officer in the fan club."
Some have gone so far as to suggest that it might be time to move on.
"If you’re the Celtics, I think you have to give some thought to moving him this summer with how poorly he’s played," Blakely said on Toucher & Rich. "He isn’t making the progress you were hoping. Obviously every player goes through a slump where they’re not making shots, but certainly you have to wonder when is he going to snap out of this."
The concern is valid and legitimate, but I would stop well short of giving up on him. Some fans on Twitter (usually a vocal minority, but still) are even making the case that Terry Rozier deserves more time than Smart. This article is my humble plea to pump the breaks on that talk for the moment.
Rozier may well have a brilliant career ahead of him, and Smart could very well struggle with his shooting for his whole career. But Smart's shooting has never been a strength, and yet he's still been extremely valuable in terms of producing wins for his basketball team.
But dismissing his offensive production based on his shooting stats alone is simply lazy. It ignores the fact that, in that same 16-game span, the Celtics are averaging 105.1 points per 100 possessions with Smart on the floor, which is 2.6 points better than Smart's offensive rating in 34 appearances before the All-Star break. What's more, Smart's post-All-Star net rating of plus-2.7 ranks second on the team behind only Jae Crowder (plus-5.1), a player whose shoes Smart has tried to help fill while Crowder has been sidelined the past five games due to a high ankle sprain. As spectacular as All-Star Isaiah Thomas has been recently, even he's only plus-2.1 in net rating since the All-Star break.
It is concerning that Smart's frustration has led to some negative consequences. He's missed defensive assignments and gotten on the bad side of the refs. We'll have to trust Brad Stevens to communicate to him his responsibility to follow through on the rest of his game even when the shots aren't falling. He's an emotional kid, and some frustration is understandable. We expect (and hope) that he will grow and mature over time. However, this recent cold streak is something to watch just the same.
I will say that the shooting struggles do reduce his value. There are no untouchables on our roster, but he has transitioned lately from one of the theoretically least available players to just another valued prospect in the Celtics' pile of trade assets. Or to put it another way, I wouldn't shop him around the league, but I'm not going to wince as hard when his name inevitably comes up in rumors.
With all that said, he's still young, and unlike James Young, he's already proven that he has a place in this league. He's even shown signs of impact-player potential. We already know he's a defensive stud, and part of this team's identity can be traced to his relentless drive and gritty will to win.
He can and will continue to work on his outside shooting, and I have a good amount of confidence that he'll improve it over time. It might never be the weapon that other point guards have, but his other strengths should more than outweigh that one weakness.
Still, it would be nice to see the ball go through the hoop a little bit more often in the final weeks of the season and into the playoffs.