Marcus Smart has been a hard player to gauge throughout his young career. For the second consecutive year, we’ve now seen him put up some of the worst three point shooting percetages during the regular season and then suddenly becoming a competent shooter in the postseason. This year his average is at a whopping 41.3% on 3.9 attempts per game, his overall playoff average is up to 37% on an average of 4.2 attempts. Last night his 27 point, 5 rebound, 7 assist, 2 steals, and a block in 41 minutes was another reminder of what the Celtics are ultimatley hoping to recieve when they took the guard/swing/big propsect with the 6th pick in the 2014 draft. Though the shooting was great and it was awesome to watch, the biggest takeaway from Smart’s game was how poised and unafraid of the momment he was. All season, the Celtics have asked Smart to adopt the role of a glue guy. Someone who who comes and just does whatever the team needed him to do. Sometimes that means risking your body for a rebound:
Sometimes that means defending a team’s player, no matter how tall he is:
But rarely has he been given the keys to the team and asked to play his natural role of lead guard. Yet here he was in a critical game in the Eastern Conference finals, shooting face-up bombs on Kyrie Irving and throwing no-look over-the-head passes to open cutters. Even more impressive is the fact that despite playing 41 minutes, Smart was still able to bring similar intensity on the defensive end holding his own on Irving, Smith, James, Love, and sometimes even Thompson. He’s most likley the only point guard in the league who can pull-off such a feat.
Even the most loyal Celtics fans know we probably shouldn’t expect an encore on Tuesday and understand that this was probably the last time we’ll see the Celtics win this season. But it does peak your interest on what Smart can do if given the keys of this team. A question the Celtics front office will be grappling with for the next month. Next year, the Celtics will be dealing with the free agency of Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart though he’ll be restricted. Celtics will most likley have to choose one guy to lose, and depending on the day of the week, that guy changes amongst Celtics fans. Isaiah Thomas does seem like a solidfied keeper, but his max would have the Celtics paying in the mid-30’s. That much for a player that is undersized and would be 29 years old entering the deal seems financially dangerous. That’s not even discussing his defensive inability which force the Celtics to surround him with defensive-minded players at all times. Is he worth keeping if it costs you a younger two-way player?
Chances are because Marcus Smart is a restricted free agent and a cost-controlled asset, he’ll most likley be staying put no matter what. And say for the sake of argument they decided to keep Bradley, draft Markelle Fultz, and end up signing Gordon Hayward. How far would the Celtics actually fall? The acquisition of Hayward would minimize the scoring deficit and combined with the defensive improvement of not having Thomams on the floor, its hard to imagine the Celtics getting worse in that situation. But again, that would rely heavily on the Celtics getting a secondary like Hayward to come on board, which is no sure-thing. Furthermore, if Hayward does opt for Utah, you have to imagine Boston may have no choice but to keep Thomas for the purposes of maintaining scoring.
Regardless, game 3 was just a glimpse of not just how good Smart could become, but just how hard a decision Boston will have coming up this offseason. As for now, we can all just take solace in the fact that when the game mattered the most, and the odds were not on our side, Marcus Smart led the Celtics to do what no other team in the East could do against the Cavaliers. The Monstars stay defeated.