Lineup note: Marcus Smart will start for injured Isaiah Thomas on Friday.
— FantasyLabs NBA (@FantasyLabsNBA) March 17, 2017
Thomas suffered a bone-bruise in his right knee following Wednesday’s 117-109 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves. He will not travel this weekend to play Brooklyn nor the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday.
Perhaps, Isaiah’s injury seemed to have come at the most suitable time. I say this, because even though Boston will be on the road for the next two games, they’ll begin a six-game homestand with the Washington Wizards this upcoming Monday.
Smart will certainly be given a favorable opportunity against the NBA’s worst-performing teams, adding that the best point guard he’ll be potentially matching up with is Jeremy Lin, who hasn’t exactly been successful in his first season with Brooklyn. I don’t expect anyone to necessarily agree with this, but a Smart/T.J McConnell matchup is far more interesting to me.
Thomas’ injury opens up a new world of opportunity for the 22 year-old. Smart, the sixth pick of the 2014 NBA Draft, is unlikely to score 25 or more consistently, but his hustle and defense is what earns him trust from head coach Brad Stevens.
2016-17 season (65 games; 22 starts): 10.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.6 steals, 37% field-goal, 29% three-point, 79% free-throw.
And while he hasn’t yet been able to develop a consistent offensive repertoire, Smart provides a number of ways to have his impact on the game. The ability to defend between the 1-4 positions is his most interesting attribute. He’s already made a name for himself as one of the league’s tenacious competitors.
With a rotation of Smart, Thomas, Terry Rozier and of course Avery Bradley (returned in late-February after missing 22 games due to Achilles soreness), the Celtics are a top-tier team in the NBA due to strong perimeter talent, and it’s on both ends. The issue however, Thomas, Smart and Bradley all-together have only played in 35 out of 68 of Boston’s games.
*Quite often, Stevens tends to go “very” small with a three-guard lineup of Thomas, Smart and Bradley — but it hasn’t been successful. They have a Defensive Rating of 113.7 and a Net Rating of -5.5.*
But for Smart, if he can discover that go-to offensive move before he reaches his peak-years — which I believe is driving and kicking it out to open shooters — he’ll be one of the better two-way guards in the NBA. He doesn’t come from a “guard-heavy” Draft, as some of the more notable names of the 2014 class were Zach LaVine, Elfrid Payton, Nik Stauskas and Gary Harris.
They’re currently second in the Eastern Conference with a 43-25 record, but Boston is just two-and-a-half games behind the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers for the first seed. However, trailing Boston by just a game-and-a-half, Washington is right on their heels.