Thursday, February 12, 2015

Causeway Street's Midseason Report Card: Marcus Smart

Causeway Street's Joel, Dutra, and Josue have turned in their mid-term report cards for the Celtics. Each player's assessment will be released throughout the week, and throughout NBA All-Star Weekend.

Photo: Associated Press

6.8ppg, 3.5apg, 3rpg

Joel's Grade: B-

Marcus Smart continues to defend like he's been a pro for years. Too bad because of his rookie status, he tends to not get some of the calls to go his way, especially when he takes charges at times. His ability to effect the game in crucial moments this season can not be ignored. Smart wants to succeed, and his work ethic shows each time he takes the floor.

However, there are times on the offensive end where his shot selection isn't always the greatest. Though recently, he's improved his three-point shot simply by taking less of them and driving more. He's strong and taking it to the basket will lead him to find an open shooter or earn him a trip to the charity stripe. Smart has a knack for being at the right place at the right time when it comes to grabbing a rebound. The rookie isn't a bad passer either. 

Going forward, if the guard wants starter minutes, he must continue to learn to make his teammates better and not necessarily be the best scorer. Sound familiar?

Dutra's Grade: B

Marcus Smart's first half of the season is very hard to grade. The expectations of a number 6 pick in "the deepest draft since 2003" were super high for the former Oklahoma State Cowboy. That pick was supposed to be the reason why Celtics fans suffered through one of the worst season in recent Celtics history. The anticipation of a future All-Star and potential cornerstone of the franchise were unfair for the 20 year-old. Looking back at those expectations and the underwhelming performance of the 2014 Draft Class as a whole, it makes it difficult to judge Smart's performance on the court and give a solid grade. But since I have to put a letter on it, I'm going with a solid B.

Marcus Smart's first half of the season has left many questions about his full potential as an NBA player. He is not your typical NBA point guard. He has all the intangibles and has the competitive spirit that most highly skilled and high draft picks lack. Smart's defense and ability to affect the game in multiple ways other than scoring is why he's such a valuable player to the Celtics. He's shown the willingness to do all the small things that coaches love and his "do anything to win" attitude is contagious and is rubbing off on the rest of the team. 

He isn't the type of offensive player many thought we would be getting in watching his college tape. In college, Smart's speed, strength and athleticism allowed him to get to the basket at will, yet in the NBA he has settled to be a three-point shooter and very reluctant to get to the rim. The only criticism I have of his game is settling for the 3-ball too much. He has proved he can hit it, but if he could expand his offensive game; the All-Star status we all had hoped for wouldn't be such a stretch. 

He had the early injury bug, a scary looking injury actually turned out to be not that scary, (THANK GOD) but still sidelined the rookie for 12 games. That stretch included the Celtics longest losing streak of 5 games, no coincidence there. Marcus may not be really good at one particular thing, but overall as an all-around impact player he's got that down pat. 

Smart's production of late is a very promising sign for the remainder of the season. Since the month of February started, he has averaged 8ppg, 6rpg, and 5apg. He's also averaged 1.5 spg in February, showing his strength on defense is starting to pay off on the stat sheet. With the departure of Rajon Rondo, the minutes are open at the point guard position, and coupled with Marcus Smart becoming more comfortable in the pro game, the league should be officially on alert. I'm fully expecting Smart to make leaps and bounds in the second half of the year, and pushing this team into the 8th seed. 

Josue's Grade: B

Marcus Smart has the potential to be one of the best one-on-one defenders in the league. As a rookie, he's already demonstrated that he can defend some of the best guards in the NBA. His most impressive defensive assignment was against one of the best scorers in the league; James Harden. Smart wasn't the only one guarding Harden on January 10 at TD Garden, but did take on the responsibility in the second half of the game. He disrupted the MVP candidate, forced him to take bad shots, and turned Harden's night into one of his worst shooting nights this season (Harden went 4-21 for 14 points). 

The only thing Smart needs to work on is his offense. Before coming into the league, the biggest knock scouts said about Marcus was his shooting but so far this season, Marcus has proved them wrong. Smart is shooting 36% from the three-point arc but is however, shooting 36% from the floor overall. One way for Smart to get his shooting percentage up is for him to take it to the hoop. Smart certainly has the body to take it to the paint and enough quickness, but he's been hesitant when it comes to going inside. In college, Smart scored the majority of his points by driving to the hoop instead of settling for jumpers. So we know he can do it, he just needs to bring that talent into the NBA.

If Smart goes to the hoop more often, he will put up more points, and will improve his free throw shooting percentage (66%) by getting fouled more often. He could also add more assists to his game by occasionally kicking it out to a Jared Sullinger or Avery Bradley. Take it to em', Marcus.


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