On Wednesday, the National Basketball Association (NBA) announced that Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart would receive the NBA Hustle Award for the 2022-2023 season. Smart gets the distinction for the third time since it was first given out in the 2016–17 season, making him the first player in the award’s history to win back-to-back seasons.
The NBA Hustle Award is given to players who put in extra effort to make plays that may not always be shown in the standard box score but significantly influence the team’s ability to win regularly. Since the 2016 postseason, the NBA has kept track of “hustle stats,” which include deflections, loose balls recovered, charges drawn, screen assists, contested shots, and box-outs. These stats can be viewed on an individual and team level on NBA Online Betting PH
As the rankings reveal, hustling is something that Smart brings to the table in every facet of the game. Smart, named the Kia Defensive Player of the Year for 2021-22, will not hesitate to dive on the floor for a loose ball. Securing those 50-50 balls is important to gaining more possessions; therefore, Smart’s willingness to do so is crucial. During the season, Smart finished 14th in the number of loose balls recovered per game.
He is prepared to put his body in the path of a player charging full speed for the hoop and take charge to protect the team. The amount not only results in a possession being awarded to his side, but it also counts as a turnover for the other team and a personal foul for the player who committed it. With 11 total charges drawn throughout 61 games played, Smart placed tenth in the charges outlined per game category.
Smart can read passing lanes and disrupt opposing attacks with deflections because he has the same court vision and reflexes that enable him to beat an opponent to the spot and draw a charge. During the season, Smart ranked 16th in deflections (2.6 per game) and 10th in steals (1.5 per game). The effort that Marcus Smart put in on the defensive end of the floor helped the Celtics close the regular season ranked second in defensive efficiency, allowing 110.6 points per 100 possessions, thanks in large part to Smart’s play.
Smart succeeds in the kind of hustle plays often dominated by guards, and he is willing to mix it up with the big guys to fight for position on the rebound. Even though Smart only successfully secured the rebound 19.3% of the time on his box outs, Smart ranked 31st overall and first among guards in terms of box outs per game. This was due to the fact that the Celtics secured the rebound on 96.5% of Smart’s box outs. A game-changing example of a hustle play is when a player is willing to clear space for a teammate to improve the team’s chances of securing a rebound.
Screen assists are another hustle metric that centers and power forwards often dominate. Screen assists are defined as setting up a teammate for a successful shot. Screen assists per game rated 37th overall for Smart, and he was second among guards, following only teammate Jayson Tatum. Smart ranked 37th overall. Because Smart utilizes his entire 6-foot-4 and 220-pound frame to assist in freeing up his teammates for open looks, Boston was able to finish in a tie for fourth place in the efficiency rankings for pick-and-roll ball handler plays, scoring 0.96 points per possession.
In his eighth season in the NBA, Marcus Smart concluded the regular season with averages of 11.5 points, a career-best 6.3 assists, 3.1 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 0.5 blocks per game, and a career-best six double-doubles. He also set a record for most double-doubles in a season with six. However, those statistics do not even come close to capturing Smart’s impact on the game for the Celtics.
His high-energy plays, the sacrifices he makes for his teammates, and the all-out effort he puts into his competition won’t be reflected in the standard box score. But those plays were crucial for Boston to finish with the second-best record in the NBA (57-25), and they helped Smart earn his third NBA Hustle Award of his career.