Marcus Smart is under some pressure this season. The Celtics guard enters his third season after a terrific playoff showing against the Atlanta Hawks in which he actually made some shots. Boston is set to hopefully contend in the East this season with the addition of Al Horford, but they'll need a much-improved offense to get there. Boston finished 10th in offense after a late-season surge but also struggled for much of the year and was particularly bad at shooting, finishing 24th in effective field goal percentage.
Smart, especially, struggled. Among all players to play at least 20 minutes last season, Smart had the 7th-worst effective field goal percentage. Synergy Sports ranked Smart in the 21st percentile offensively overall, and in the 19th percentile in jump shot points per possession. He shot a startling 27.6 percent on jump shots last season.
But Smart says he's looking to be more of an offensive weapon this season.
ICYMI: Marcus Smart says he's "becoming more of an offensive threat." Hear Smart's 2016-17 goals in his own words:https://t.co/0SoQFJdzgO— Boston Celtics (@celtics) August 26, 2016
"(I'm planning on) becoming more of an offensive threat," Smart told Celtics.com
Smart's offense was generally a train wreck, but there are some interesting things in the data, via Synergy Sports.
Smart shot 23 percent on catch-and-shoot shots, an absolutely abysmal percentage for the highest efficiency jump shots possible. In isolation, he shot 25.9 percent. It was all bad. Oddly, Smart shot a very decent 40 percent out of the pick and roll as the ball-handler, which put him in the 50th percentile, and he shot 19-of-44 (43 percent) on jumpers in such sets.
Here's the really crazy part, though: Smart was very good at off-the-dribble jumpers. One of the more difficult shots in basketball, he was 81st percentile, shooting 40 percent in the half-court. Basically, in efficient situations, Smart was a disaster, and in inefficient situations, he was decent-to-very good, although in small samples.
This gives you confidence that some of this he can move beyond and develop. In catch-and-shoot situations, barring a major problem in his jumper (he has a hitch but it's not a Ricky Rubio situation), one can generally improve with repetition. Avery Bradley, his back-court partner, underwent the same kind of development.
Having the ability to score with the ball will be beneficial, especially if Smart takes on a sixth-man role as the primary bench weapon on a versatile roster.
The issue of course comes with the glut of guards that Boston has. Isaiah Thomas is their All-Star cornerstone, Bradley is their best defender and a high-quality scorer at this point, and the team has several other young guards competing for roster time (like R.J. Hunter and Terry Rozier). Smart is considered a building block of the Celtics' future, but they're also looking to compete now. Smart needs to make those offensive leaps this year because Boston has positioned itself to pursue multiple outlets toward success.
Smart can be one such avenue, but he's also far from Boston's only route forward. This is a big year for him.