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3 reasons why Marcus Smart will be the Boston Celtics' X-factor in the 2021-22 NBA season

Marcus Smart running the Boston Celtics' offense.
Marcus Smart running the Boston Celtics' offense.
Michael Macasero

A year after trading Kevin Garnett to the Brooklyn Nets, the Boston Celtics made Marcus Smart the sixth overall pick of the 2014 NBA draft. Since then, Smart has become the Celtics’ unquestioned defensive leader and is currently the longest-tenured Celtic heading into the 2021-22 season.

Marcus Smart is one of those players whose impact is not oftentimes reflected on the stat sheet. He routinely makes game-changing plays that are not measured by numbers. A closer look at his performance, however, would also confirm what the eye is appraising.

Tatum's 50 was excellent but we don't win this game without Marcus Smart. He always plays so good in the playoffs. 23 points on 8-11 shooting (and excellent shot selection) with 6 assists... And that All-NBA defense. #Celtics https://t.co/wV8dmvzgXF

Smart is a two-time All-NBA Defense and the first Boston Celtics player to accomplish the feat since the legendary Big Ticket was still guarding the paint with a snarl for the Cs. Smart also had career highs in scoring (13.1 PPG), assists (5.7 APG), and minutes (32.9 MPG) last season.

With more things to check off his to-do list for the Celtics this year, he could be an even bigger difference-maker.


Why Marcus Smart will be a game-changer for the Boston Celtics in the upcoming season

Boston Celtics Media Day
Boston Celtics Media Day

#3 Becoming the Boston Celtics’ lynchpin on defense again

By his lofty standards and admission, Marcus Smart significantly regressed in his defensive performance. It’s not a coincidence that the Cs slipped out of the top 10 in defensive ratings when Smart was not at his best.

PlayerSeasonDefensive Rating
Marcus Smart2018-19107.1
2019-20107.2
2020-21113.2
TeamSeasonDefensive Rating
Boston Celtics2018-19107.8
2019-20107
2020-21112.5

Nobody on the Boston Celtics’ roster changes the game the way Smart does when he rolls up his sleeves to guard the best players on the opposing team. If he gets more offensive duties this season as the starting point guard, it should not make much of a difference on the defensive side.

Brad Stevens has tinkered with the roster to make the Celtics more balanced. The return of Al Horford and the addition of Josh Richardson could be underrated signings that’ll shore up the defense. With Smart leading the defense, this unit is expected to go back up in defensive ratings.

He’s practically been the point guard because Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker, respectively, have been in and out of the lineup for the past few years because of injury.

Ime Udoka’s defensive mindset will only highlight Marcus Smart’s importance this season.

#2 Marcus Smart will run the offense of the Boston Celtics entering the 2021-22 NBA season

Marcus Smart directing the Boston Celtics' play.
Marcus Smart directing the Boston Celtics' play.

Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka stressed before training camp that Marcus Smart will have more of the ball in his hands. If the first preseason game is any indication, Smart will be running the offense for the Cs this year.

Kemba Walker, the Boston Celtics’ starting point guard last year, averaged 4.9 dimes a game. Smart had 5.7 APG. More impressively, he nudged it to 6 a game in the postseason while becoming the Cs second option on offense after Jaylen Brown injured his wrist. The NBA could be sleeping on Marcus Smart as a playmaker.

Jayson Tatum believes in Marcus Smart as the Celtics starting point guard 🙌“Having the ball in his hands is always a good thing… As good as he is on the defensive end, his playmaking is right up there.” https://t.co/1HWrsu1rip

It looks like Marcus Smart will be officially handed the keys to the Celtics’ offensive engine this season. He will have more freedom to make plays for his teammates. And speaking of plays, Smart just makes plays anywhere he is on the court and whenever the opportunity comes up.

One vivid example is Marcus Smart chasing down Norman Powell's fastbreak layup in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Toronto Raptors.

Here's a look at that remarkable play:

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#1 Marcus Smart is healthy this year

Boston Celtics Media Day
Boston Celtics Media Day

Marcus Smart played only 48 games last season. For the Boston Celtics to have a shot at challenging the best teams in the stacked Eastern Conference, he has to play more than that. Luckily for the Celtics, he has fully recovered from a calf injury that cost him almost half of the season last year.

A healthy Smart brings the kind of hustle, energy and leadership that made Gary Payton a force on both sides of the ball.

Marcus Smart’s chemistry with Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum will only make the Celtics better. While the Js have vowed to be better playmakers this season, Smart will continue to be the coach on the floor who will direct the plays.

Celtics guard Marcus Smart fresh off his 4-year, $77 million extension:"Nothings changed. Attitude is the same. Go out there and do everything to help my team win." https://t.co/gjF97n0WHx

If the Boston Celtics go far this year, signing Marcus Smart to an extension could be one of the best deals Brad Stevens managed to do as first-year president of basketball operations.

Edited by Arnav Kholkar

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