Marcus Smart confidently strutted into Celtics Media Day last month in a shamrock-clad white bathrobe, then routinely used his veteran status to muscle out rookies and shorten his wait to complete his day’s obligations.
Smart is still improbably just 25 years old. But he is undoubtedly a veteran on this fresh-faced Celtics squad. He marvels at how quickly the first six years of his NBA career have flown by and, yet, the 2014 draftee is easily the longest-tenured member of Brad Stevens’ roster.
The Celtics simply want Smart to be himself this season, that crazily-diving-on-the-floor, gleefully-guarding-7-foot-big-men cyclone of constant activity who leads not only with his voice but the all-out way he plays.
It’s a successful season for Smart if…
… he earns another All-Defense nod, which would be no small feat considering the amount of back-line defensive talent the Celtics lost this summer. Smart is one of the game’s elite defenders — as evidenced by his All-Defense first-team nod last season — and he will be tasked with trying to smother talent of all sizes this season. With Smart, it’s never about the stat line, but if he can spearhead the second-unit offense when Kemba Walker is off the court, set the defensive tone, and provide leadership, then he’ll check all the boxes on his to-do list.
It’s a disappointing season for Smart if…
… the injury bug tries to chomp on him again. After playing a career-high 80 games last season, Smart tore an oblique in a meaningless late-season tilt and missed the early portion of the playoffs while recovering. It was the second consecutive year that a late-season injury left Smart less than 100 percent in the postseason. Smart will be vital to Boston maintaining a defense that ranks in the top half of the league and they absolutely need him at full strength when the playoffs roll around.
A year after earning the role of Kyrie Irving’s preferred backcourt sidekick, Smart could be headed back to the bench. But he’ll likely have an even greater opportunity to impact the team. If Smart can maintain his improved 3-point shooting (36.4 percent a year ago) and use his playmaking to power the second-unit offense, then he might even have an outside shot at Sixth Man of the Year consideration (though it tends to land with a high-scoring bench player). Smart’s leadership will be key in getting the most out of a young roster.
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