Which NBA players are the most difficult to evaluate? Marcus Smart has to be near the top of the list.
The Celtics guard is Boston's emotional leader, a ferocious defender whose grit and hustle are unmatched and who makes "winning plays" that don't show up in the box score. The box score doesn't always do him favors, though: Smart shot below 40% from the floor last season and 33% from 3-point range while committing two turnovers per game.
So, how good is Smart compared to his NBA peers? Sports Illustrated embarked on the bold task of ranking the league's Top 100 players, unveiling Nos. 100 through 51 on Monday.
And Smart made the cut at No. 60.
"Now entering his prime with an outside shot that remains up and down from year to year, Smart’s physical tenacity (and relatively unnoticed playmaking chops) still endears him to teammates and coaches, even when he’s a bit too overzealous with the jumper," SI's Michael Pina wrote of Smart.
Here are the three players behind and ahead of Smart on SI's list:
63. Aaron Gordon, Denver Nuggets
62. Caris LeVert, Indiana Pacers
61. D’Angelo Russell, Minnesota Timberwolves
60. Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics
59. OG Anunoby, Toronto Raptors
58. Kristaps Porzingis, Dallas Mavericks
57. Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors
That's decent company for Smart to keep, considering everyone on this list except for Gordon had a higher scoring average than Smart in 2020-21 (or in Thompson's case, his last healthy season).
Smart hasn't garnered any NBA accolades outside First-Team All-Defense nods in 2019 and 2020, but his intangibles place him among the top 15% of all active players, according to SI.
That seems accurate, and explains why the Celtics rebuffed potential trade opportunities before signing Smart to a four-year, $77 million contract extension that will make him the team's fourth-highest-paid player behind All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown and veteran Al Horford.
SI will roll out Nos. 50 through 1 over the course of the week, and we're guessing both Tatum and Brown both will have lofty standings. But they have company on the list with the third member of Boston's "core."