Sports Opinion: Celtics Should Start Nesmith Over Smart

Drew Gray '23, Contributing Writer

Ok, before you call me crazy, hear me out. I know it sounds like an absurd idea: Starting Celtics forward Aaron Nesmith who has been a bench warmer until late in the season, over guard Marcus Smart who is the pinnacle and backbone of the Celtics with his willing defensive mentality.

Although it sounds like a long shot, I believe there are two reasons why this change should be made: Nesmith’s statistical impact and his physical impact on the court from the viewer’s perspective. Additionally, this change to the starting lineup is no disrespect to Smart, as he can be extremely productive off Boston’s bench.

I believe that the more frequent insertion of Nesmith into regular season games this season has furthered his development into a solid role player for the C’s. Statistically speaking, his defensive rating is actually higher than that of Smart’s this season. Also, his overall field goal percentage per 36 minutes is also higher than Smart’s, while only shooting around 2 less field goal attempts than him per this three quarter time frame. Furthermore, Nesmith has only about 40 less three pointers than Smart while having played over 700 less minutes in games this season. Needless to say, although Nesmith doesn’t get a ton of minutes, during those he does receive, his efficiency is apparent.

Now, physically speaking, Nesmith’s impact on the court is really quite impressive. One notable stretch where he received ample minutes from former Coach Stevens was throughout 3 games from April 28 and May 2. During this stretch he was averaging over 15 points a game, just over 6 rebounds, and almost 70% from 3 point land–all while averaging 27 minutes a game. Now obviously this was not sustainable, but this stretch flashed major potential to the viewer’s eye. Not only were his statistics eye-popping, but his energy on the court really shined through. He seemed to be in on every rebound, making every hustle play, and generally going the extra mile to ensure the Celtics were successful on both ends of the floor.

So, although it sounds like an absurd thing to say — especially if you are a big Marcus Smart fan — the Celtics should give Nesmith an opportunity at a larger role next season. Considering the many questions and uncertainties of the ensuing offseason, it may be the time to start experimenting with and reevaluating the Celtics bench. And perhaps, this could present Aaron Nesmith with the chance he deserves.