Many would argue that the most important player moving forward for the Celtics would be Kyrie Irving.
Irving, an NBA Champion and Gold-Medalist for team USA, has shown that he is an offensive superstar willing to put in the work to lead a team deep into the playoffs. Granted, he wouldn’t have gotten there without LeBron James, but Irving has taken the next step to show he can be the main driving force behind a team’s championship hopes.
And yet, I think a person who could end up being just as important if not more for the Celtics’ future would be Marcus Smart.
This belief is by no means based on just one main point, but rather all the things he could do for the Celtics that should give the Celtics an incentive to resign their longest tenured player remaining.
Let’s take a look at why I think Marcus Smart deserves to be “paid” by the Celtics (I say “paid” because he should, by no means, warrant a max extension, but rather a hefty increase in salary which he deserves).
1. New-Found Shooting Stroke
Okay Celtics fans, I get it. This is only the preseason and we shouldn’t get too carried away with it, but let’s just pretend this renovated jumper is here to stay.
In that case, there aren’t many holes left in Marcus’ game. He is a hard-nosed defensive minded point guard who now FOUND A JUMPSHOT.
The reason this is significant is because that would mean the Celtics can throw him out there knowing he is an All-Around player, capable of holding his own defensively while also having the ability to shoot from the perimeter and attack the basket when the defense gets too close. A lineup of Kyrie Irving, Slim Marcus, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford should be a nightmare for opposing defenses because not only would the Celtics finally be mobile, they would be much like the Warriors in the fact that they could all stretch the floor.
And of course this wouldn’t mean they would be as successful as the Warriors (They have 2 MVP’s on their roster..), but they would most certainly be ready for the time when the Warriors and the Cavaliers begin to crumble and fall as the two powerhouses holding the league by the throat.
All this starts with Marcus, however, as he has been one of the few Celtics players to yet have a consistent jumper from the outside.
2. Defensive Menace
Marcus Smart was, by far, one of the most useful Celtics last season. His defensive attitude and ability to guard multiple positions allowed the Celtics to use him with multiple lineups last season, and he continues to be one of the peskiest guards in the league.
Throw in the fact that Marcus lost 20 pounds during the offseason, and that defensive versatility should only flourish. Now that Marcus is lighter, he should be able to keep pace with some of the quicker guards in the league like John Wall and Steph Curry. Not only this, but he should also benefit heavily from the numerous times he will go up against one of, if not the best, isolation scorers in the league in Kyrie.
Take a look at what Smart told reporters during a Media session during this offseason once he had announced his weight loss:
“More explosiveness, a lot more quickness laterally. I definitely see me being able to guard the guards like John Wall and Bradley Beal, guys like that, a lot better. You’re definitely going to see my energy level stay at a high rate. Where it was last year with the extra weight, (in the) first half I was energy, energy. By the (time the) fourth quarter came, I still had the mindset of energy, but my body just wouldn’t allow me to do it.”
If Marcus can retain the strength that made him such a defensive menace last season while also gaining a quicker step on defense, this should only boost his value on the defensive end of the floor, and give the Celtics another reason to resign him.
3. Celtic Heart
I’m not going to lie, the second I heard that we traded Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder for Kyrie, I felt this team lost their identity.
By that time, Thomas had asserted himself as a fantastic professional and great leader, and he embraced the tradition that was the Boston Celtics (Jae as well).
But when we talk about passion, and making those “winning plays” as so many people say, you simply have to marvel at the human being that is Marcus Smart. Not only does he dive for loose balls, but he constantly steps up when the team needs him most and performs at a level that sometimes seems superhuman. To me, the last remaining heart of the Boston Celtics is Marcus Smart, and the Celtics simply can’t afford to let something that valuable walk away for nothing.
This team needs someone that hits the floor. They need someone that fights for that whistle. They need someone that takes charge in those nitty and gritty plays that can turn the tide of the game.
They need Marcus Smart’s heart, and Smart needs someone to believe in him.
Please Celtics, take a chance with Marcus. He embodies everything we value as a franchise, and he might have just made a major breakthrough developmental wise.