It is, and has always been, a “next man up” mentality for the Boston Celtics. This year, similar to years past, there has been a major injury to one of the team’s main stars. With this comes the opportunity for the human Swiss Army Knife himself, Marcus Smart, to prove himself invaluable in “Title Town.”
In 2018, the Boston Celtics went on one of the most inspiring playoff runs in recent memory, built on the strength of a power-in-numbers approach. You see, it wasn’t the usual suspects that kept the team, not only afloat, but in the conversation for a legitimate Eastern Conference champion favorite until the waning moments of game seven of the conference finals.
It was third, second and even first-year players that were never expected to contribute to playoff success so soon. Since then, Brad Stevens has tried to recapture that magic in a bottle. This year’s team may have the cohesiveness to pull off a similar feat, especially after a tremendous start to the season.
Right now, Boston is looking at an expected six-week absence from arguably their best player from the early parts of this season, Gordon Hayward, after he suffered a fractured left hand during Saturday’s outing against the San Antonio Spurs. Of course, it was Hayward’s absence in 2017-18 that gave way to the younger players establishing themselves as franchise cornerstone material.
Still, you never like to see someone who worked so hard to be in the position he was in to suddenly see the momentum come to sudden halt. Hayward’s current timetable projects him to be back around Christmas. If that is the case, then someone is bound to benefit as the new de-facto addition into the starting lineup.
God bless the Boston Celtics that Marcus Smart is the beneficiary.
Built with a Team USA tie-in, Smart’s game should help ease the burden of finding shots for the team’s 1-4 spots occupied by Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and–formerly–Hayward. He doesn’t need the basketball to be successful, but he certainly showed last night that he can do things with the ball as well.
— SLAM (@SLAMonline) November 12, 2019
With Walker hoisting up close to 20 shots per game, and Tatum hovering around the 18 shots per game mark himself, the Boston Celtics could use a guy who is more concerned with where the ball is on defense rather than need the ball in his hands incessantly himself. Smart will be able to focus on upping his 3-point percentage, which sits at a mediocre 34.6% — though, actually solid by his standards — on over six attempts per game.
In Stevens’ offense, everyone is expected to be able to move without the ball which, in turn, leads to open looks on kick-outs and cut passes. Smart will fill a similar role to Hayward in the facilitation game, as the small forward was dishing out 4.1 assists per game, similar to Smart’s average of 4.5 (3.9 for his career).
Through 8 games, the Boston Celtics led the league in point differential at 9.4, and Smart gives the starting lineup the capability of clamping down at the offset of games.
Don’t expect Smart to replace Hayward’s 20 points per game. He just isn’t that kind of player.
However, he is the kind of player that can jibe with this starting unit. Expect Smart to keep the momentum going for a Celtics team that has proved surprisingly capable — if not well above average — on both ends of the floor.
While Gordon Hayward’s game will sorely be missed, there should be no noticeable dip in team productivity with Marcus Smart’s insertion into the starting unit. This is now the time when we all will realize how invaluable it is to have a super-sixth man with the pliability and versatility of the All-Defensive First Team guard.