If the Boston Celtics want to be serious contenders, they may need to find a playmaking point guard to pair with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
If you ask Marcus Smart, they already have one.
The longest-tenured Celtic has assumed the team's primary point guard role this season following the departure of Kemba Walker, and the results have been mixed: Smart's assists per game are actually down from last year (5.3 compared to 5.7), while Boston owns the NBA's 20th-ranked offense (107.7 points per game) with a pedestrian 25-25 record.
The Celtics' offensive struggles have led to speculation about Brad Stevens moving Smart prior to the Feb. 10 NBA trade deadline. But the 27-year-old believes he's fully capable of being this team's floor general.
Forsberg: It's decision time for the Celtics and Marcus Smart
"First coming out of college, I was a point guard," Smart said in a recent interview with The Athletic's Jay King. “It’s what I played. So it’s kind of funny to hear people say I’m not a point guard. In high school, point guard, led my team to two state championships. It’s funny hearing people say I’m not a point guard.
" ... I’ve been doing this my whole career and now people want to talk about I’m doing it more. It’s just like, ‘No. I’ve been doing it.’ You guys are just finally getting to see more of it because (unlike) in years past, I’m not coming off the bench, I’m not playing 20 minutes and I’m playing the point guard role now."
To Smart's point, the Celtics are at their best when he's in facilitator mode.
Boston is 12-6 this season when Smart attempts fewer than 10 shots and 10-13 when he puts up more than 10. In the team's biggest win of the season, a 53-point rout of the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday, Smart had zero points on three shot attempts but dished out seven assists and was a plus-36.
That said, the C's have traditionally sought more offensively from point guards like Isaiah Thomas, Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker. With Smart shooting just 30.7% from 3-point range this season, you could make the case Boston needs a facilitator with more offensive punch to draw attention away from Tatum and Brown.
Smart apparently is well aware of that narrative, though, and is using the trade rumblings as motivation.
"My whole life I’ve been doubted. And I’m here. And I’m still around," Smart said. "And that’s just kind of how it’s been for me. I always bet on myself. And I love this team, this organization."
If Smart is still in Boston on Feb. 10, we'll have proof that the feeling is mutual.