AP Photo / Lynne Sweet
Marcus Smart of the Boston Celtics and Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors, two of the NBA’s best defensive players, have no shortage of praise and respect for one another ahead of their NBA Finals.
Smart told reporters Wednesday he appreciates comparisons to Green, who helped lead the Warriors to three NBA titles in his 10-year career.
“It’s an honor to be compared to a guy of Draymond’s caliber,” said Smart. “You know, a champion, a great leader, a great defender and he’s very good at what he does, so I like to think of myself that way and I definitely take some notes on Draymond and the way he’s leading, like he’s playing the game.”
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“It’s an honor to be compared to a guy of Draymond’s caliber.” pic.twitter.com .com/7hitHAmQ1B
Warriors head coach Steve Kerr told reporters On Monday he thinks Smart is “like the Guard version of Draymond”:
“His strength and anticipation, he has an incredible feel for the game at that end. …He reads angles, he guards all five positions, when he switches to a five he’s strong enough to fend them off, he’s fast enough to chase point guards around, big enough to guard wings so he’s in the modern Game can literally defend 1-5. He’s aptly named, a very intelligent player and a really versatile and great, great defender.”
green too praised Smart during a press conference on Wednesday: “He’s thinking the game. You can see it on the floor. … And he’s a great leader. And he’s grown so much. It was really good to see.”
Smart has always been an excellent defender and his efforts this season earned him the Defensive Player of the Year award, making him the first guard to win the trophy since Gary Payton in 1996.
The 28-year-old was the driving force behind Boston’s top-ranked defense, finishing the regular season seventh in steals per game (1.7), first in loose balls won per game (1.1) and fifth under the guards with a defensive rating of 105.2.
Smart also had 106 deflections and pulled 16 attacks, both the 10th best in the NBA, and averaged a career-high 3.2 defensive rebounds per game.
Green averaged 6.3 defensive rebounds, 1.3 steals, and 1.1 blocks per game. The 32-year-old also finished with 113 deflections, 38 free balls won and 389 contested shots.
Green was named Defensive Player of the Year in the 2016–17 season and received all-defensive honors seven times.
Smart has been the better defender this year, however, and if the Celtics win the title his style of play could make him a contender for Finals MVP. Game 1 is scheduled for Thursday at the Chase Center in San Francisco.