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2020 Awards Series Sixth Man of the Year: Marcus Smart

by Taylor Snow

It’s awards season at Celtics.com! We’re handing out six awards throughout mid-October as we roll through this year’s Celtics.com Awards Series. We may not have trophies or acceptance speeches, but we do have some top-flight Celtics performances to outline. Here we go...

BOSTON – We’ve finally arrived at the final installment of our 2020 Awards Series, one which gives Marcus Smart his second award of the season. Smart has added Boston’s Sixth Man of the Year digital trophy to his collection that also features this year’s Defensive Player of the Year award.

The Twitter voting for the Sixth Man of the Year Award was the most convincing of any of the awards. Smart was nearly a unanimous winner, having garnered 91.9 percent of the 17,523 votes.

One might wonder why Smart was eligible to win this latest award that’s dedicated to a reserve, seeing as he started 40 of his 60 appearances during the regular season and 16 of his 17 games during the postseason. The answer to that question is simple: he started those games because he was the team’s most important and impactful reserve.

The Celtics were riddled with injuries throughout the season at multiple positions. Gordon Hayward missed 19 regular-season games plus the majority of the postseason, Kemba Walker missed 15 regular-season games, Jaylen Brown missed 13, and Jayson Tatum missed five. Smart was the reserve who was called upon to step into the starting lineup for nearly all of those absences when he was available to do so.

The sixth-year guard delivered in those spot-starts, just as he did as a reserve. His approach to the game never changed, and that’s what Brad Stevens loves about him. It’s a given that Smart will play each night with effort and energy while defending at a high level and creating offense both via the shot and the pass.

That’s a lot for a reserve to bring to the table.

Let’s start out at the defensive end of the court, where Smart earned his second consecutive All-Defensive First Team honor this past season.

Smart led the Celtics in both total steals (101) and steals per game (1.7) for the second consecutive season. He limited opponents to 42.8 percent shooting from the field, which led Boston’s top eight rotational players with regard to playing time.

The guard was also one of only six players in the NBA to average at least 1.7 steals and 0.5 blocks per game on the season.

Rightfully so, the defensive end of the court is where Smart garners most of his attention. His impact at the offensive end for Boston oftentimes flies under the radar.

Smart ranked fifth on the team in scoring with a career-high average of 12.9 points per game. He ranked third on the team in made 3-pointers with a total of 137, all while ranking eighth in the NBA (minimum 50 attempts) in 3-point percentage on pull-up 3s (40.1 percent). Smart also had Boston’s fourth-best free throw percentage among players who attempted at least 40 freebies, at 83.6 percent.

Smart’s shooting boosted the Celtics on many occasions, but his ability to make plays while protecting the ball was showcased every night. He set a new career high in assists per game with a team-leading average of 4.9, and he also led the team in total assists (291). All the while, Smart rarely turned the ball over. He compiled the fifth-best assist-to-turnover ratio in the league among guards who averaged at least 28 minutes of playing time per game.

These statistics and achievements are what one would expect from an NBA starter. Smart played great basketball for the Celtics all season long no matter what the role. He excelled as a spot-starter, and he excelled when coming off the bench.

He was Boston’s de facto sixth starter, a role commensurate with the most important and impactful reserve on the team – its Sixth Man of the Year.


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