|4 candidates eager to grab Celtics’ 6th man role this season||08.26.16 at 10:11 am ET|
One of the biggest questions the Celtics will have to answer at the start of the regular season is this: Who will emerge as the team’s sixth man?
Turner finished fifth in voting for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year and made game-deciding plays, so there’s certainly a void left behind. However, the Celtics have more than a few options off the bench — guys who have the potential to perform on both ends of the floor at a high rate and are very much capable of becoming the team’s newest sixth man next season.
Here are their best options.
1. Marcus Smart
Smart is heading into his third NBA season, and expectations are at an all-time high for him. Last season he carved out a role for himself as the team’s second-best backcourt defender (behind Avery Bradley), while also showing flashes of scoring prowess. Most notably there was a 26-point performance against arguably the best point guard in the league — Thunder star Russell Westbrook — as Smart made 9-of-14 shots from the floor, including 3-of-5 from behind the arc, and led the C’s to a 100-85 win at Oklahoma City.
An impressive showing for the young guard, but what’s often frustrating about Smart’s offense is his lack of consistency — something Westbrook (who finished with 27 points that night) reminded us about Smart after the loss:
“[Smart] had a good game. But there’s 82 games I do this,” Westbrook said.
The following night, Smart finished with four points in 30 minutes against the Rockets — a big drop-off from what was the best scoring night of his career.
Although Smart’s suffocating defense helped limit Westbrook to 25 percent shooting (5-of-20), in order for him to slide into the team’s sixth man role he’s going to have to find consistency on both ends of the floor. If he can build off Game 4 of April’s playoff series against the Hawks — another fantastic performance from Smart — there’s a strong chance that Stevens will see his backup guard reach new heights next season.
|Marcus Smart looking to become ‘more of an offensive threat’ this season||08.25.16 at 9:40 pm ET|
It’s a big year for Marcus Smart.
With the departure of Evan Turner, the 22-year-old’s role on the Celtics will organically be stepped up, not to mention the pressure that will be put on him to up his offensive game to match his solid defensive skill.
After Smart was thrust into a big spot when Avery Bradley went down in the first game of last season’s playoff series against the Hawks, suffice to say Brad Stevens will need to lean on Smart quite a bit this season.
And the third-year pro seems to be ready for that challenge.
“Becoming more aggressive. Becoming more of an offensive threat,” Smart said when asked how he will raise his overall game in an interview with Celtics.com. “I’m improving and trying to improve every aspect of my game. Trying to become more of a second to third, fourth option on the team in scoring, assists and everything. Just anything I can do to help my team on the offensive end.”
Added Smart, “My defense, I know I’m going to be there with it. That’s one thing I don’t have to worry about, my teammates don’t have to worry about. But I think it’s time for me to step up on the offensive end.”
In 27.3 minutes per game last season, Smart averaged 9.1 points and 3.0 assists per game with 1.5 steals. He was seventh on the team in points, behind then-fellow shooting guard Turner, who finished fourth on the team, and Bradley, who finished second.
More concerning, however, was the inconsistency of his shooting. He shot a mere 34.8 percent from the field — a decline from his rookie season in which he shot 36.7 percent — and just 25.3 percent from beyond the arc.
|Marcus Smart knows he has to improve his jumper: ‘Everybody knows it. I know it’||06.29.16 at 11:38 am ET|
WALTHAM – Summer is a time for rest and relaxation for many veterans in the NBA.
But Marcus Smart, entering his third season, is taking a different approach.
For the first time since his rookie season, he heads into the summer months fully healthy and ready to improve his game, and that means getting offensive.
Everyone knows Smart is one of the best defensive guards in the NBA. As a matter of fact, Brad Stevens considers it a luxury that he can bring Smart off the bench on occasion to replace Avery Bradley and there’s little to no drop off in “on-ball” defense.
But it’s the offensive side that’s been a major struggle. Smart was known as an inconsistent jump shooter at Oklahoma State but considered a force who could get to the basket. In the NBA, it’s been a bit of a different story, as teams have forced him into jump shots.
In his rookie year, Smart had respectable 3-point shooting numbers, converting 91-of-272 from beyond the arc for a 33.5 percent rate. But this past season, his numbers fell off drastically, as he went through long droughts of poor shooting, falling to 25.3 percent, an alarming number for a guard in the NBA.
So when asked Tuesday during his camp at Brandeis what he might be focused on improving, he didn’t hesitate.
“My shooting. Everybody knows it. I know it. I’ve been working really hard on it, and my conditioning,” Smart said.
During one five-game stretch from March 21-31, Smart missed all 16 attempts from beyond the arc. But there was signs late in the season that he was figuring things out.
There was the stunning win at Golden State on April 1, when he connected for a key three in the fourth quarter. He went 4-for-6 from long distance in a late season game against the Hawks. And he was 3-for-6 in the series opener in Atlanta in the playoffs. He was 5-for-12 from 3-point range in wins in Games 3 and 4.
Now, Smart is committed to continuing that momentum.
“It’s been good actually. I’ve been putting in a lot of work and just trying to get better, so, so far, so good. It’s been good,” Smart said.
When he’s not working on his shot, Smart has been working with kids, showing the organization that he has the type of skills needed to make it as a leader in Boston. Smart is running his Boston YGC camp this week in Waltham at Brandeis.
“It feels good. I just got done with my Dallas camp, and the kids there – how little I was, I used to run around, parents telling me you’ve got too much energy,” Smart said. “Just wait until you get older and you’ll see how much energy you have. And then to come here and see the kids, it’s just incredible.
“I’m actually doing another one in the Canary Islands. So that’s a blessing for me. Not many people can say I had a camp in the Canary Islands, outside of the States, only in your second year. So that’s incredible to me and I’m ecstatic about it. I can’t wait.
“The first thing that goes through my mind is this was me about ten years ago. I remember going to camps and seeing an NBA player and my eyes lit up. It’s just a good feeling to be able to put that type of excitement on the kids’ faces. I just tell them just keep working, anything’s possible. You don’t have to be biggest, strongest or athletic guy to make it. You’ve just got to work hard.”
|Marcus Smart: ‘I’m ecstatic to remain a Boston Celtic. I love Boston [and] I love their fans’||06.28.16 at 2:06 pm ET|
WALTHAM – There was one person very happy that the Celtics didn’t pull off a trade last Thursday night during draft night.
As one of the youngest and most talented defensive guards in the NBA, Marcus Smart was at the center of many trade rumors involving the Celtics. He knew there was a possibility that he might be dealt away as the Celtics tried to move out of the No. 3 spot and get a proven impact scorer.
As it turned out, the Celtics and Danny Ainge didn’t pull the trigger, leaving Smart to continue his plans for another season in Celtic green.
“I’m ecstatic to remain a Boston Celtic,” Smart beamed Tuesday at his youth basketball camp at Brandeis. “I love Boston. I love their fans. I love the organization and everything about it.”
There was also something else that didn’t happen Thursday that played to the apparent advantage of Smart. The Celtics didn’t draft another defensive-minded guard. They chose Jaylen Brown over Kris Dunn.
“That was weird because Danny being a defensive-minded guy, so you kind of would’ve thought that was where he was going,” Smart said. “We were excited for whoever we got and we are excited with the picks that Danny has picked, and the front office and we’re ready to go.”
Smart, like Isaiah Thomas, has started to make his pitch for Kevin Durant. But there are other areas that could be addressed with as much as $62 million of cap space to play with.
WALTHAM – Isaiah Thomas isn’t the only Celtics guard who’s pushing hard for Kevin Durant to come to Boston.
Speaking at his summer basketball camp at Red Auerbach Court at Brandeis Tuesday, Marcus Smart said it would be amazing for the Celtics to add the top name in free agency to their roster.
“Oh, no doubt. I think any team would love to see Durant and those type of caliber players on their team,” Smart said. “But we’re not the ones that make that call, so we just kind of sit back and wait. And whatever decisions that the front office makes, we’re ready to run with it.”
Durant would be a franchise-changer for the Celtics. To add a 7-footer of Durant’s caliber on the wing, their offense would taken on a different dimension and they would shoot the Celtics to the top of the NBA food chain, immediately making them top contenders in the East.
“It’s incredible. A guy his size to do what he does, it’s unreal,” Smart said.
Knowing all of this, Smart, like Thomas, is hoping and praying that Durant gives Boston serious consideration. Would he recruit Durant to Boston?
“If I get his number,” said Smart.
Smart played at Oklahoma State, practically in Durant’s backyard.
“I watched Durant growing up, even when I was at Oklahoma State,” Smart said. “He came to like a game or two and I talked to him. Not a whole lot, but he’s a great guy you can definitely tell.”
The Celtics are on the short list of six teams who have scheduled meetings with Roc Nation Sports, the agency that represents Durant. The Spurs, Warriors, Clippers, Heat and Thunder will all be meeting with Durant. Free agency officially begins Friday.
|Austin Ainge recalls Marcus Smart ‘was horrible in his workout’ before callback||06.18.16 at 2:08 pm ET|
WALTHAM – The Celtics are dotting their ‘I’s’ and crossing their ‘T’s’ this week.
Some of those last-minute preparations for Thursday’s draft include calling players back for a second look.
Austin Ainge, director of player personnel, reminded everyone Saturday, during the final media availability of group workouts in Waltham, that there is a certain value to bringing a player back for a second look, also known as a callback.
Perhaps, the most recent example of this on a significant scale is Marcus Smart, the guard out of Oklahoma State taken sixth overall by the Celtics in the 2014 draft.
“Marcus it was more like he was the guy we kinda wanted to take. And we all liked him a lot. Then he was horrible in his workout,” Ainge said. “And so when we went back and we watched film, we were like, ‘We do like this guy. Let’s give him another chance.’ So, that was the instance with that. We’ve done callbacks in years past where we didn’t end up taking the guy.
There have been callbacks where the guy was banged up or tired and so we said, ‘Alright, let’s look at you again.’ Or sometimes it’s as much as we found some things out in their background check and we want to talk to them about it. Or our doctor wants to take another look. All of these are reasons to have a guy come back.”
How different did Smart look the second time around?
“Significantly. He made shots. He was the Marcus that — he had more fire, just was the Marcus we had seen all season,” Ainge added. “Both of Marcus’ workouts were competitive workouts.
“It’s just case by case. Some guys are just really scheduled all the way up and some guys have room to come back and it just depends on everybody.”
|Avery Bradley named NBA all-defensive first team, Jae Crowder, Marcus Smart honorable mention||05.25.16 at 5:22 pm ET|
The Celtics had a very good season and a good part of it was based on their improved defensive effort.
Avery Bradley led that effort as a starter and, on Wednesday, was named to the NBA’s all-defensive first team by pro basketball media members.
Behind Bradley, the Celtics finished tied with the Clippers and Warriors for fourth in the NBA in defensive rating. Bradley was also the top finisher among guards in the Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year voting (sixth place overall). He averaged a career-high 1.54 steals for the Celtics in their breakout 48-win season under third-year coach Brad Stevens.
Jae Crowder just missed a selection on the second team, finishing with 47 points, including three first-team votes. Marcus Smart, who often played alongside Bradley in the backcourt, finished with seven points and two first-team votes.
Kawhi Leonard of the Spurs won the Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year award and finished with the most votes.
2015-16 NBA ALL-DEFENSIVE FIRST TEAM
Player (Team), 1st Team Votes, 2nd Team Votes, Total
Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio), 130, –, 260
Draymond Green (Golden State), 123, 5, 251
DeAndre Jordan (L.A. Clippers), 47, 43, 137
Avery Bradley (Boston), 62, 25, 149
Chris Paul (L.A. Clippers), 59, 30, 148
2015-16 NBA ALL-DEFENSIVE SECOND TEAM
Player (Team), 1st Team Votes, 2nd Team Votes, Total
Paul Millsap (Atlanta), 11, 75, 97
Paul George (Indiana), 5 , 38, 48
Hassan Whiteside (Miami), 44, 38, 126
Tony Allen (Memphis), 44, 33, 121
Jimmy Butler (Chicago), 18, 26 , 62
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