Ahead of the Boston Celtics’ first-round postseason matchup against the Hawks, Marcus Smart had a strong message for Trae Young — and it was a positive one, not one that addressed their March 11 scuffle during a 134-125 Cs win.
“Any player that I go up against, especially one of the greatest players in this league, I’m definitely looking forward to it,” Smart told reporters on April 13. “It’s a matchup as a defensive guy, going up against the best offensive players, it’s only going to make me better.”
Young had a bit of a down year by his standards during the 2022-23 regular season, having his second-lowest conversion rates from the field overall and from beyond the arc. Still, his shot profile covers nearly every spot on the floor beyond the halfcourt line.
Trae Young could be ‘perfect pivot point’ for Boston Celtics defense
Boston.com’s Tom Westerholm believes Young could serve as the “perfect pivot point” for the Boston Celtics defense during their first-round Eastern Conference postseason series against Atlanta.
“For the Celtics’ offense, which doesn’t really have any individual weaknesses, a player like Young is a perfect pivot point,” Westerholm. “The Hawks have tried at times to hide Young on Derrick White, but White is far too canny – going directly at Young when he gets an opportunity 1-on-1, or running the Hawks star through pick-and-rolls to create havoc, or setting screens off the ball to involve Young in the action in a sneaky way. The Hawks have used Young on Malcolm Brogdon, which has disastrous potential too – Brogdon is an even more polished and muscular scorer than White. At times, the Hawks have tried Young against Sam Hauser, which didn’t work well either – Hauser moves far too much off the ball and shoots far too well for an inattentive defender like Young. Even when Young does the right thing, he can be a liability.”
Forcing switches on Young that result in either Al Horford or Jayson Tatum post-ups could lead to double-teams, and eventually, open players on the perimeter. If the Celtics could hit their open looks, this series could be an easier one to navigate.