The unthinkable question for Boston Celtics fans is asked: Is Jrue Holiday 'just a better version' of Marcus Smart?

Boston Celtics v Milwaukee Bucks - Game Four
Boston Celtics v Milwaukee Bucks - Game Four / Stacy Revere/GettyImages

NBC Sports Boston's Chris Forsberg asked the unthinkable question Boston Celtics fans have wanted to avoid since last October: Is Jrue Holiday a better version of the heart and soul of the team for nine years, Marcus Smart?

Forsberg even did the honor of asking that question with an answer some may not want to acknowledge.

"If you had asked a Celtics fan which player you'd rather have, most would've said Smart because we love our own, even though Holiday had already made an All-Star team, been named All-Defense four times, and most importantly, won a title," Forsberg prefaced before saying, "We embraced Smart's intangibles, hustle, and all-out style, but (during the Celtics-Bucks 2022 playoff series) I remember thinking, 'Huh. Is Holiday just a better version of the same player?'

"That series and the season that followed convinced Brad Stevens the Celtics needed a makeover. They had exhausted that iteration of the roster, Smart too mercurial to deliver on a nightly basis. So Stevens boldly shipped out Smart and brought in Holiday. They might just raise Banner 18 as a result."

Boston Celtics put the ball in the right hands with Marcus Smart gone

Truthfully, Holiday and Smart aren't all that similar on the offensive side of the ball. While the two both guard positions 1-5 on the other end and make post-ups a big part of their game, Holiday isn't functionally a point guard like Smart was. Instead, Holiday defers to Derrick White, Jaylen Brown, and Jayson Tatum to initiate play-making.

So in a way, Holiday may not be a better version of Smart. He may just be better.

That's not to take anything away from Smart's near-decade of brilliance either. When a player arrives and the team proceeds to not miss the playoffs for the next 10 years, evidently, he's an extremely valuable asset.

His narrative unfortunately took a hit this season in a big way, though. That the Memphis Grizzlies looked rudderless is a knock on him to an extent, though he missed more than three quarters of the season. What's more of a bad look for Smart is how much better the Celtics have looked with Holiday and Kristaps Porzingis; the latter of whom was traded directly for Smart.

Boston's playoff run has been aided by injuries to both of their opponents, with Jarrett Allen and more recently, Donovan Mitchell, being out and Jimmy Butler missing the Miami Heat series. So it's not fair to use the postseason as a Smart-less litmus test.

But again, the 2023-24 season showed that the team's ceiling may be higher with Holiday in place of Smart because it unlocked more offensive leadership from White, Tatum, and Brown.