Big picture, big picture, the Celtics are having a great season. Nothing has occurred this season that lowers the Celtics playoff ceiling.
Of course last season injuries to Hayward, and Irving radically reduced the Celtics, ceiling ... But in the playoffs we saw very good play in the playoffs particularly from Horford, Tatum, Horford, Brown, and Rozier.
Let's revisit the Celtics playoff performers. Let's start with the Celtics top draft picks from the prior 4 drafts, Smart, Rozier, Brown, and Tatum.
Smart was drafted in 2014 and has played by far the most playoff minutes of any player from his class draft, 1270, but he is a distant second to Capella in creating Win Share in the playoffs. Marcus Smart did have tremendous impact on the Celtics perimeter defense, mentioned in a Fanpost written in after Game One against the Cavs.
Through the first four playoff games against the Bucks the Celtics three point defense struggled. The series was tied 2-2, the Bucks were shooting 43.6% as a team. In game five Marcus Smart played for the first time in the series and the Celtics held the Bucks to 27%. The last three games Boston held Milwaukee to only 30.2% shooting from three.
Since Smart's return the Celtics have held their opponents (through nine games) to only 29 3P%. Smart may have been the missing piece in the puzzle.
The Celtics perimeter defense held Philadelphia to 30.9% shooting, after they had shot 44.9% against Miami. In Game 1 against the Cavs the Celtics held them to 15% 3pt shooting, after the Cavs shot 41% against the Raptors.
But, this is not the best version of Marcus Smart, the best version is the one we are getting right now. The Kyrie MS combo is a winner. Analytically, Smart is having by far his best season, his current WS/48 is .142 his career high before this season, was .083. Now in his fifth season and the Celtics longest tenured player Marcus has learned to accentuate the positive - his steal percentage is 3.4 second in the league (to Westbrook 3.5) and his overall RPM is 35th in the entire league, and he leads all PG in defensive RPM.
He has also dramatically reduced the negatives, he is only missing about 3.5 shots a game last year he missed about 6 shots per game, and his TOV have reduced from 2.4 to 1.4 per game.
Marcus is in a good position, he has signed his second contract, he doesn't need to score points or showcase himself to win a long term position all he has to do make winning plays AND help Kyrie to be the best version of himself, with that in mind here is what Marcus had to say about playing with Kyrie.
"We complement each other," Smart said. "I take a lot of pressure off him. He doesn't have to bring the ball up as much, with everybody putting as much pressure on him. On the defensive end, I take a lot off him as well to give him time to rest. In Washington that fourth quarter, that energy he needs, he has it because he's not trying to play defense as hard on somebody, one of their best guys, bringing the ball up every time the court and somebody's picking him up full court. I think we do complement each other really well."
Your comments are much appreciated, TNB.