Marcus Smart Earns All-Defensive First Team Nod
BOSTON – Marcus Smart has been the heart and soul of Boston’s defense for the past five seasons. At long last, the scrappy Celtics point guard has some hardware to show for it.
After years of flying under the radar on the defensive end, Smart finally earned the league-wide recognition he deserved Wednesday afternoon as he was named to the NBA's 2018-19 All-Defensive First Team.
Any Celtics player or coach would agree that this honor was long overdue. Boston has had one of the best defenses in the league over the past few seasons and Smart’s contributions on that end have been a big reason why. He’s put his body on the line night in and night out for the C’s, wreaking havoc for opposing offenses with his fearless tenacity and guarding any position, 1 through 5. He's also been a consistent vocal leader on the defensive end, where he's kept the group organized and playing together on a string.
One reason why Smart may have been left off the All-Defensive Team ballots in the past is that he has never ranked near the top of the league in any major statistical categories. His contributions have typically come in the form of plays that don't show up on the stat sheet.
This season, however, Smart placed high in a bunch of departments. He led the league in steal percentage (3.1 percent) and was third in total steals (143), finishing only behind Paul George (170) and James Harden (158). Smart also was third in the league in 3-pointers contested (340) and fourth in total deflections (228).
On top of all of that, Smart continued to provide the unique defensive fearlessness that defines who he is. No one in the league pursues the ball as relentlessly as Smart does on every possession. He’s even earned the nickname “The Cobra” for the way he dives, or strikes, at a loose ball.
Plays such as those obviously don’t show up in the box score, but Smart doesn’t care about the statistics. He only cares about making the right play to help his team win.
“That's how I was taught to play,” he told Celtics.com last season. “I'm a winner. I'm not about the accolades. I'm here to win. And if that's what it's going to take for my team to win, then I'm gonna do it.”
Having that type of defensive mindset has earned Smart a tremendous reputation among his teammates, coaches, and fans of the Celtics. Now, it’s clear that the whole league recognizes how impactful he is on that end of the court, as Smart earned 63 out 100 first-place votes.
Milwaukee Bucks guard Eric Bledsoe finished a distant second to Smart with 36 such votes. Rounding out the First Team's frontcourt is Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George and Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo.
This marked the second straight campaign in which a Celtics player earned a spot on the All-Defensive Team, as Al Horford was named Second Team All-Defense at the end of last season. Smart is also the first Celtic to make the First Team since Avery Bradley did so in 2015-16.
While the recognition was long overdue for Smart, it was worth the wait. Making the All-Defensive First Team provides a massive boost for one’s reputation and doing so at just 25 years of age should allow Smart to blossom into one of the most renowned defensive figures in the league for seasons to come.