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NBA Daily: How Will the Loss of Marcus Smart Impact the Celtics’ Postseason?

Marcus Smart is likely to be sidelined for at least a month due to injury. Shane Rhodes takes a look at what that may mean for the Celtics in the postseason.

Shane Rhodes

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In the last days of the season, it looked as if the Boston Celtics had finally turned a corner.

Gordon Hayward once again looked like the player Boston signed back in 2017, aggressive and confident with the ball in his hands. Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Kyrie Irving seemed to be firing on all cylinders offensively. A late-season lineup change (Aron Baynes in for Marcus Morris) seemed to reinvigorate the defense.

And, most importantly, with the postseason upon them, the Celtics were healthy.

Until they weren’t.

In their meaningless penultimate game — the Celtics had already clinched the fourth seed over the Indiana Pacers — of the regular season, Boston lost Marcus Smart to what appeared, at the time, to be a simple hip pointer. Smart has since been diagnosed with an oblique injury, and a serious one at that; the Celtics are expected to be without Smart’s services for at least four-to-six weeks.Smart has proved integral to the Celtics’ success this season, more so than he has in the past. His insertion into the starting lineup after an underwhelming start to the regular season steadied the ship, and he has been a main fixture for them since. Aside from the hyper-defensive effort that he is known for, Smart has managed career-bests in field goal percentage (42.2) and three-point percentage (36.4) en route to what has been perhaps the best offensive season of his young career. And now, at perhaps the worst possible time, he is out for the foreseeable future.

Smart’s absence could have a major impact on the Celtics, their attitude and their play going forward. As cliched as it may sound, Smart is the heart of this team and, at times, they have proved less than stellar when he is on the bench or unavailable.

His absence could be diminished in their first-round series with the Pacers, who themselves have been without their best player, Victor Oladipo, for much of the season. But, should they advance further, his absence and importance to the team could become apparent quickly.

Smart was the primary defensive option for Bojan Bogdanovic, the Pacers’ go-to option without Oladipo, and so the Celtics have already been affected by the injury. Brad Stevens and Co. must come up with a new defensive game plan and they have to do it quickly; Indiana may be short-handed this postseason, but they work hard and, with an excellent coach in Nate McMillian behind them, the Pacers will take advantage should Boston come in unprepared.

The further they advance, the greater the impact of Smart’s absence will become. The Milwaukee Bucks, their likely second-round opponent, is already a handful with Giannis Antetokounmpo. But, without Smart making it difficult for Antetokounmpo’s co-stars, Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe, things could prove much easier for the Greek Freak and the Bucks’ NBA-leading offense. If Smart is unable to return come the Conference Finals, the Celtics would be hardpressed to advance any further.

Regardless of whatever situation the Celtics find themselves in, Smart’s secondary offensive creation and his knack for positive plays on both sides of the ball will be sorely missed, especially when Irving and Tatum hit the bench.

Meanwhile, the energy he has brought game-in and game-out could be the team’s biggest loss; unlike years past, the Celtics have struggled this season to respond when teams push them, make a run or just, in general, make things difficult on them. The times they have managed a positive response, Smart has been at the center of it, both from the bench and on the floor. Boston must find a way to step up in those situations without him.

Smart’s four-to-six week timetable would put him back on the court sometime near the end of the second round, if not later in the Conference Finals (should the Celtics even get there). In the meantime, the team will have to rely heavily on Terry Rozier, who starred last postseason but has struggled mightily this year, and Brown in his stead.

The Celtics are about as talented as any team in the NBA but, without their vocal leader in Smart, they could prove to be a major question mark. If Brown and Rozier can’t manage to step up behind him, and if the team, as a whole, can’t keep things rolling without Smart on the floor, expect an early postseason exit from Boston.

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Legacy

Looking For A Few Great Voices!

From time to time we have open chairs at Basketball Insiders for writers looking to gain experience, grow their brand and to be part of an aggressive up-tempo content team.

Basketball Insiders

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From time to time we have open chairs at Basketball Insiders for writers looking to gain experience, grow their brand and to be part of an aggressive up-tempo content team.

We are considering adding new voices for the 2020-21 NBA Season, and what we are looking for is very specific.

Here are the criteria:
– A body of professional work that reflects an understanding of the NBA and basketball.
– Must live within 30 minutes of an NBA team.
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– Have a strong understanding of social media and its role in audience development.
– Be willing to work in a demanding virtual team environment.

Some things to know and consider:
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– This will be a low or non-compensation role initially. We need to understand your value and fit.
– We have a long track record of creating opportunities for those that excel in our program.
– This will be a lengthy interview and evaluation process. We take this very seriously, so should you.
– If you are not committed to being great, this is not the right situation for you.

If you are interested, please follow these specific instructions, Drop us an e-mail with:

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And Why We Should Consider You:

We do not need your resume, but a few links to work you have done under the above information would be helpful.

Please send all of this to: openings2021@basketballinsiders.com

 

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#17 – Aleksej Pokusevski – Oklahoma City Thunder

David Yapkowitz

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With the 17th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, the Oklahoma City Thunder select Aleksej Pokusevski from Serbia. The Thunder completed a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves to acquire the pick.

Pokusevski is a long term project, but one that has has an intriguing skillset. A 7-footer with good speed and quickness, Pokusevski plays like a wing and can pass like a guard. But, to truly thrive at the next level, Pokusevski will need to put on some serious weight.

Again, he’s a project. But Pokusevski’s ceiling is sky-high. And, with a rebuild ahead of them, the Thunder have more than enough time to work with him and ensure he reaches it.

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Mock Drafts

2020 NBA Mock Draft – The Final 60-Pick Mock

What a long and winding road the 20201 NBA Draft has been. While this draft cycle has seen its ups and down, the moment of truth if finally upon us.

Steve Kyler

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What a long and winding road the 20201 NBA Draft has been. While this draft cycle has seen its ups and down, the moment of truth if finally upon us.

Here is a final look at the 2020 Draft, and how it may play out in this final 60-pick Mock Draft of the 20202 NBA Draft process:

 

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