An impressive showing for the young guard, but what’s often frustrating about Smart’s offense is his lack of consistency — something Westbrook (who finished with 27 points that night) reminded us about Smart after the loss:
“[Smart] had a good game. But there’s 82 games I do this,” Westbrook said.
The following night, Smart finished with four points in 30 minutes against the Rockets — a big drop-off from what was the best scoring night of his career.
Although Smart’s suffocating defense helped limit Westbrook to 25 percent shooting (5-of-20), in order for him to slide into the team’s sixth man role he’s going to have to find consistency on both ends of the floor. If he can build off Game 4 of April’s playoff series against the Hawks — another fantastic performance from Smart — there’s a strong chance that Stevens will see his backup guard reach new heights next season.
Smart, who finished with 20 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two steals in that game against the Hawks, delivered in the fourth quarter by scoring eight consecutive points (including back-to-back 3’s), pulling down crucial rebounds and making critical defensive stops against the best player on the floor — Paul Millsap — toward the end of the fourth quarter and in overtime. The C’s tied the series with that win, and Smart finished with a game-high plus-24 rating.
He also earned himself a few All-NBA Defensive Team votes, and it’s only a matter of time before we see Smart on one of the All-Defensive Teams. As an elite defender with a career average of 8.4 points, he’s a lock in Stevens’ rotation. But if can shoot at a higher level, he’ll undoubtedly become the Celtics’ newest sixth man (if he’s not starting).
The ceiling still is very high for Smart and maybe this upcoming season ought to be the year we see him make humongous strides.
2. Jaylen Brown
At 19, Brown was one of the youngest players selected in the 2016 NBA draft and already is considered to be one of the most unpopular first-round picks in recent Celtics history. With that in mind, Brown entered summer league with a chip on his shoulder and proved to his naysayers how valuable he can be for the C’s in his rookie season.
Brown, who was projected to be drafted outside of the top five by most experts, fared well this summer against the two draftees who were selected before him — Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram.
2016 summer league stats
Ben Simmons: 10.8 points, 7.7 rebounds, 5.5 assists
Brandon Ingram: 12.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists
Jaylen Brown: 16.0 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.3 assists
Brown displayed athleticism, quickness and the ability to initiate contact and get to the free throw line. He scored 20-plus points in back-to-back games and got to the charity stripe 36 times in three games — easily his most impressive stat of the summer. His ability to attack the hoop certainly is what he does best.
However, if he’s going to become a vital piece for the Celtics next season, it’s going to be his one-on-one defense that’ll get him there. Brown finished with a combined seven steals in his last two summer games against the Cavaliers and Blazers. He applies his quickness and great footwork on the defensive end by staying in front of his opponent and clogging the passing lanes.
So, what’s his biggest flaw?
Brown is not an effective shooter and is going to have to develop a jump shot during his rookie season. As Jae Crowder’s backup, Brown is expected to be a nice spark off the bench, and if he happens to develop a jumper to complement his speed and aggressive defense, it could be enough for him to become the sixth man for the C’s.
3. Terry Rozier
As he heads toward his second NBA season, Rozier has every reason to feel good about himself.
After playing meaningful minutes in the playoff series against the Hawks, he followed that up by becoming the Celtics’ best player this summer — averaging a team-high 20 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists.
Although NBA summer league stats don’t always (OK, almost never) translate the same in the regular season, Rozier’s confidence definitely is one thing he will carry into the 2016-17 season. He’s a secondary facilitator — a role that was very important for Turner and the Celtics last season. Rozier also is an above-average defender — an attribute that will keep him on the floor.
He also proved he can score at the rim and has improved on his outside touch — something the Celtics are always looking for. If Rozier is able to make the leap and put together an over-the-top performance in preseason, he’ll have a shot at becoming Stevens’ first option off the bench.
4. Gerald Green
The Celtics’ 2005 first-round pick returns to Boston, where his NBA journey began at 18 years old. The former dunk champion will look to rekindle his production of two years ago when he was able to put together the best season of his nine-year career.
Green has suited up for seven NBA teams since he last played for Boston, making stops with the Timberwolves, Rockets, Mavericks, Nets, Pacers, Suns and Heat (while also playing two years in Russia).
An NBA Sixth Man of the Year candidate in 2014 with Phoenix, Green shot 44.5 percent from the floor, including a career-high 40 percent clip from deep. He eventually became a starter for the Suns the following season before playing for the Heat in 2015-16 — when he only averaged eight points in 22.6 minutes a night. By the the start of the postseason, he was behind Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson on the depth chart and his playing time dipped to 9.2 minutes a night.
After finishing last season as one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the league, the Celtics hope Green can recapture the outside touch he had in Phoenix. He’s a 36.1 percent career shooter from behind the arc but is going to have his work cut out for himself in trying to jump in front of Smart, Rozier and Brown — three candidates who are eager to become the team’s sixth man for the 2016-17 season.