Marcus Smart is ahead of schedule when it comes to scrappy former OSU guards and defensive accolades.
On Wednesday, the NBA’s all-defensive first team was announced, and the the fifth-year guard was among those honored.
Smart led all guards with 63 first-team votes and 19 second-team votes. Also earning spots on the first team were Giannis Antetokounmpo and Eric Bledsoe of the Milwaukee Bucks, Paul George of Oklahoma City and Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz.
Smart has drawn plenty of comparisons with Tony Allen, another former Poke and defensive specialist. Both earned Big 12 Player of the Year awards, and both were first-round picks by the Celtics.
Both were owners of a productive offensive game in college that didn’t quite translate to the pros. But what’s impressive about each is that they leaned into it and carved out good NBA careers by playing to their strengths.
Allen famously (and emphatically) hyped himself with the “first-team all-defense” moniker. But it took the Grindfather all of nine years in the league to earn that achievement, Smart grabbed his first one in five.
But even that is overdue, according to his head coach Brad Stevens.
“Marcus is a really good defender who probably should have been on All-Defensive teams before and for whatever reason has not been,” Stevens said back in December. “So maybe if everybody could write a little blurb for him, I think that would be nice because he should be on it every year. He’s a great defender.”
It apparently worked. It also didn’t hurt that Smart led the NBA in steal percentage at 3.1.
But Allen still holds the edge over the younger Smart, being named to three all-defensive first teams and three second teams, and in six out of seven years between 2011 and 2017. Smart is just now on his first.
Last July, the Celtics locked their young guard up with a four-year, $52 million contract. He missed Boston’s first-round playoff series against the Pacers with an oblique injury but returned for two games in the second round before the Cs were dispatched by Milwaukee 4-1. He was a big part of Boston’s playoff run to the Eastern Conference Finals last season.