The Boston Celtics have had success since Marcus Smart made one huge improvement to his game and became a fixture in the rotation.
During the offseason, Smart signed a four-year deal worth $52 million. But the Celtics gave him that money knowing he was not much of a sharpshooter and thus at his position, he was not particularly valuable on offense. For the wing, his defense was what made him worth the money for Boston.
The Celtics have had 25 wins and just 9 losses since Smart was inserted into the starting lineup on November 26, 2018. He has increased his effectiveness on his jump shot and has thus been a revelation for his team.
Earlier this season, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft told Jay King that no longer playing for a contract has actually helped him with his shot selection (via The Athletic):
“[When] you have a bad game or you miss two or three shots when you’re getting a limited amount of touches, it feels like you’re playing horrible, and you’re thinking about it. So it does weigh in a little bit on it. So that [comfort] of knowing you’re secure is something that as a player is good to have.”
Overall, he has actually been an above average shooter this season. Smart ranks in the 69th percentile when spotting up and in the 74th percentile on catch-and-shoot attempts, per Synergy Sports.
Smart is shooting 42-of-93 (45.2 percent) on his shots from downtown since January when he has really started to heat up. Among the 66 players in the Eastern Conference who have taken at least 50 three-point attempts in the new year thus far, no one has been more accurate than Smart.
Yet his opposing defenders have somehow not gotten the memo considering of the 88 three-point attempts he has had since January 1, only three of them have come when a defender has been within four feet.
Smart had struggled on wide open shots in the past but now he is hitting the opportunities with ease. Here is what he told A. Sherrod Blakely earlier this month (via NBC Sports):
“I love it when they leave me alone. It’s my shot. I can shoot it.”
In fact, the 24-year-old Boston wing leads the East on his attempts above the arc. Smart is currently 30-for-66 (45.5 percent) on these looks during the span, which ranks No. 1 overall (minimum: 30 attempts) since January 1.
That is a particularly insane split because Smart was 323-of-1099 (29.4 percent) on shots from this zone, when including the playoffs, since his rookie season before this date. If this can stick, the wing will be one of the more valued two-way players in the NBA.