How can Marcus Smart help the Philadelphia 76ers as an enemy-turned-ally?
Four games in, the Philadelphia 76ers have the seventh-ranked defensive rating in the league. However, that is a tad misleading, as three of their four outings so far were against teams in the bottom-five in the league on offense. Branding the team as a defensive juggernaut at this juncture is too much of jumping the gun.
Philadelphia, at its best, is a solid point-preventing team. However, the team has to think of the big picture and how they are likely to be matched up against teams with All-Star caliber guards. And so far, they have only faced one with Damian Lillard in Milwaukee, who absolutely exposed the team’s fragile backcourt defense to the tune of 39 points.
This is where Marcus Smart can become an instant boost. While he’s more than just a backcourt stopper with his ability to cover more ground than what his size entails, he’s at his peak element guarding opposing backcourts. This is even more crucial when considering the depth of talent among guards in the East with the likes of Lillard, Jaylen Brown, Jalen Brunson, Donovan Mitchell, and Tyrese Haliburton, among others. After all, relying on Patrick Beverley as their sole backcourt stopper is still risky despite his prowess.
Beyond that, Smart remains elite at leveraging his physicality to latch onto much bigger opponents, being able to hold his own even against the likes of Giannis Antotokounmpo, Jimmy Butler, and theoretically, Jayson Tatum in spurts. Philly’s rivals are led by All-NBA caliber forwards and with the 76ers currently projected to rely on aging veterans on defense with the departure of PJ Tucker, having Smart will allow the team to be more flexible and disruptive on defense.
The added bonus of Smart being a perfect utility complement to Tyrese Maxey in the backcourt also cannot be understated. Between his defense, veteran experience, intangibles, and secondary playmaking, the young star will be well-served having him as a running mate.