by Matt Rooney
Thunder vs lightning. The battle between the backup guards of the Celtics is a good one, as only one is likely to be with the team long term. These are—without question—two starting caliber players, but they are stuck behind Kyrie Irving and Jaylen Brown on the stacked Celtics roster.
Marcus Smart just signed a four year, 52 million dollar extension, and is the heart and soul of the Boston Celtics. He isn’t afraid of anyone and is always looking to do what’s best for the team. Terry Rozier, beloved by Danny Ainge, thrived as a starter last year after Kyrie went down. He will be a restricted free agent at the end of the year and is looking for a big payday. They are both vital to the Celtics’ success this coming season, but if the Celtics can only keep one, who should it be?
This past season, Smart averaged 10.2 points on 36.7% – 30.1% – 72.9 and is widely thought of as the worst jump shooter in the league. His shot selection didn’t help his scoring value either. Although he’s not terrible, scoring is definitely not Smart’s forte.
Rozier averaged a similar 11.3 ppg, but did so on a 39.5% – 38.1% 77.2% clip. He averaged an even better 15.7 points per 36 minutes while Smart scored 12.3. Along with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, Rozier often carried the Celtics offensively in the playoffs.
Edge: Terry Rozier
Smart averaged a career high 4.8 assists per game last season as he flashed his ability to run an offense. His 23.7 assist percent last season is 6 percentage points higher than Rozier’s career high. Playmaking is one of Smart’s better qualities and he is only improving in that area.
Rozier only averaged 2.9 assists per game last season, despite playing most of his minutes as the floor general for the Celtics. Although he isn’t a bad playmaker, he is regarded as a player who goes and gets his before he helps others get in on it themselves.
Edge: Marcus Smart
Marcus Smart is in the NBA because of what he brings on the defensive end. Period. Smart’s defensive box plus minus, which measures the defensive points per 100 possessions a player contributed above a league average player, is 1.1 which is well above league average. Smart’s strength and fire enables him to guard every position, which is extremely rare in today’s NBA. He can flat out make plays on the defensive end. Check out his coldblooded block on Lebron during the Eastern Conference Finals here.
Although he doesn’t bring the same value as Smart on the defensive end, Rozier can bring it in his own right. His career defensive box plus minus is positive, which shows he’s an above average defender. He excels at shooting gaps and forcing turnovers, and is someone Brad trusts when he needs a stop.
Edge: Marcus Smart
Both of these players are above average for their respective positions when it comes to rebounding.
Marcus Smart has a knack for finding the ball and that showed as he averaged 3.5 rebounds per game last season. On the other hand, Rozier averaged 4.7 rebounds per game, mostly due to his extreme athleticism. Although his numbers were a bit better than Smart’s, Marcus seemed to always grab a clutch rebound when the Celtics needed one.
Although Rozier is a bit more talented, give me Marcus Smart. On a team full of offensive firepower, Smart’s supporting skill set is more valuable than Rozier’s. His impact on winning is monumental and he comes at a much cheaper price then Rozier will ultimately demand. If Kyrie leaves in free agency next year, this becomes a whole new story.