The NBA Rookie of the Year Award is normally just a consolation prize to the best rookie playing on a team at the bottom of the league. Marcus Smart was selected 6th overall in this summers draft and has already played the way we’ve expected so far this season. Smart will have a steep hill to climb along with his very loaded NBA draft classmates, but if Smart can continue to prove himself worthy of the award, he will win the award hands-down and the Celtics will have a real winner on their hands as the future continues to unfold.
It’s time for a history lesson my friends. For starters, Smart’s position has already made him the most likely Rookie of the Year Award winner. With Smart being the hybrid guard for the Celtics, he will have the ball in his hands way more often than any other forward or center rookie in the NBA. This allows for a lot more successful plays to run through them, and of course, a lot more statistics to tally up. Seven of the last nine winners have been guards, Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin the only frontcourt men to win the award during that time frame.
Luckily for Marcus Smart, from awful to mediocre and from playoff to championship teams haven’t put a dent in rookies chances to win the award. Last season, Michael Carter-Williams won the Rookie of the Year award on a 76ers team that just has no desire to win games anytime soon. The other guards that have won the award on bad teams are Damian Lillard and Kyrie Irving. Derrick Rose won the Rookie of the Year award on a 41-41 Chicago Bulls team and took the #2 seeded Celtics to 7 games during his rookie season. The Celtics are currently 3-4 heading into tonight’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Marcus Smart will still receive many opportunities to make a name for himself once he returns from a sprained ankle.
The college experience level for the recent winners are very well worth noting as well. Some of those players have come into the NBA with a lot more experience in college than the more common one-and-done players. Carter-Williams spent two seasons at Syracuse under future Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim. Lillard spent all four of his college seasons at Weber State prior to being drafted 6th overall by the Portland Trail Blazers. Since Smart has played two seasons at Oklahoma State, he has the advantage experience-wise than most of his fellow rookies. That extra season has him currently at 20 years old as an NBA rookie instead of 18 or 19. In terms of maturity and ability to handle everything that goes with being an NBA player, that year or two can mean a lot.
Marcus Smart has another major thing going for him that Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle or Aaron Gordon do not have. Smart is playing the same position as team captain Rajon Rondo, who has been mentoring him since training camp. Rajon Rondo and Marcus Smart are both strong personalities and Rondo’s playing ability is to help set up his teammates for success. While sharing the court, the Celtics will have two unselfish players the facilitate an already strong offense, which could help shadow the fact that neither player are shoot-first point guards from the get-go.
Marcus Smart has already made an impression for the Celtics so far this season and is very likely to win the Rookie of the Year Award at the end of the year. Winning that award will only make him more confident in his game and strive for future All-Star teams.