A couple of minutes ago the news was confirmed by all the big name insiders in the NBA: Marcus Smart, point guard for the Boston Celtics is the winner of the Defensive Player of the Year award for the current season, beating out his two other competitors Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz) and Mikal Bridges (Phoenix Suns) and becoming the first player at his position to win the honor since 1996, when point guard Gary Payton last won it as a member of the Seattle Supersonics.
The 28-year-old shooting guard has been the key player in the transformation of the Celtics to one of the leading contenders to reach the NBA Finals in the East Conference, his collaboration got the team the best defense in the league overall, thanks to which they capitalized on one of the best records in the second half of the regular season.
Smart is undoubtedly the most versatile and impactful defender in Ime Udoka’s rotation, with the ability to complicate even those players who are 20 or more centimeters taller than him. At 6’6″, the 28-year-old veteran has proven that it takes nothing more than skill and intelligence to become a defensive talisman both on the perimeter and in the paint.
Marcus Smart’s Numbers in 2021-2022
With a line of 12.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 1.7 steals through 71 games this season, the point guard’s numbers don’t seem very impressive to anyone who doesn’t know the work he does on the court game. He is the definitive leader behind a Boston defense that had the best rating among all teams (106.2) and limited its opponents to the lowest field goal (43.4%) and three-point field goal percentages (33.9%).
Marcus also made contributions that are not usually taken into account in statistics: 206 passes deflected, 16 offensive charges absorbed and 75 fumbles recovered. His presence on the court enabled the Celtics to become the defensive nightmare of any team in the NBA, and with the Oklahoma State University graduate’s leadership, each of his teammates reached the peak of their ability to limit their opponents.
However, we have to give credit to his teammates, who stepped up alongside him to achieve this superb ability of the organization: Robert Williams III, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford have also been pillars for the Celtics’ suffocating performance around their hoop.
Prior to Smart’s win, only two players sharing the same position (shooting guard/point guard) had been able to achieve the honor since 1988: Gary Payton in 1995-1996 with the Seattle Supersonics and Michael Jordan with the Chicago Bulls during the 1987-1988 season. Marcus’ triumph is a key milestone so that the new era of shooting guards of the NBA are inspired and know that they can achieve top status through hard work and leadership.