Given his increasingly impactful play, the hard-nosed guard and newly minted NBA Defensive Player of the Year looks increasingly underpaid — but by how much?
To fans of the Boston Celtics, Marcus Smart has been the leader and the heart of the franchise for the last eight years. To outsiders, the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year is a pest to even the best opposition and is more than willing to go out of his way to draw a charge. But not only is Smart having an elite on the defensive side of the ball, but his playmaking ability is shining through at the perfect time for the C’s.
As a player whose name used to pop up frequently in trade rumors, Smart has gone a long way in proving his value to the Celtics as the prototypical starting point guard they searched for to complement Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Before the season started, the Celtics searched for an efficient scoring point guard who could also defend and ended up with Dennis Schroder. Ultimately, he was dealt less than 50 games into the season. All the team has done since then is lock down the No. 2 seed in the East and sweep the title-minded Brooklyn Nets in four games.
The Celtics struck gold in giving him room to grow into an evolved set of skills. So, is their Marcus Smart contract officially an undervalued asset? To answer this question, let’s gauge how much value Smart creates compared to other top point guards in the NBA.
Marcus Smart Salary & Contract Details
All dollar figures via Spotrac.
Active contract length: 4 years
Total value: $51,999,900
Average annual value(AAV): $12,999,975
2021-22 salary: $14,339,285
Upcoming extension (2022-2026) length: 4 years
Total value: $76,487,996
Free agency: 2026
Where Does Smart’s Salary Rank Among NBA PGs?
Highest-paid NBA PG in 2021-22 (Total $)
1. Stephen Curry (GSW): $45.8M
2. John Wall (HOU): $44.3M
3. Russell Westbrook (LAL): $44.2M
4. Damian Lillard (POR): $39.3M
5. Kyrie Irving (BKN): $35.3M
6. Chris Paul (PHO): $30.8M
7. D’Angelo Russell (MIN): $30M
8. Jamal Murray (DEN): $29.5M
9. De’Aron Fox (SAC): $28.1M
10. Kyle Lowry (MIA): $26.9M
18. Marcus Smart (BOS): $14.3M
Highest-paid NBA PG in 2021-22 (AAV)
1. Damian Lillard (POR): $44M
2. John Wall (HOU): $42.8M
3. Russell Westbrook (LAL): $41.4M
4. Stephen Curry (GSW): $40.2M
5. Ben Simmons (BKN): $35.4M
6. Kyrie Irving (BKN): $34.1M
7. De’Aaron Fox (SAC): $32.6M
8. Jamal Murray (DEN): $31.7M
9. Chris Paul (PHX): $30M
10. D’Angelo Russell (MIN): $29.3M
25. Marcus Smart (BOS): $13M
Marcus Smart Stats & Accolades
Regular season averages (71 games)
Points per game: 12.1
Rebounds per game: 3.8
Assists per game: 5.9 (No. 17 in NBA)
Steals per game: 1.7 (No. 7 in NBA)
FG percentage: 41.8%
3 Point percentage: 33.1%
FT percentage: 79.3%
2021-22 NBA Defensive Player of the Year
Postseason averages (through 4 games)
Points per game: 16.5
Rebounds per game: 4.0
Assists per game: 7.0
Steals per game: 1.25
FG percentage: 42.1%
3-point percentage: 31.3%
FT percentage: 80.0%
How Much Did Marcus Smart Make Per Assist This Season
- In the regular season, Smart recorded 417 assists and earned $14,339,285. That’s $34,386.77 per assist.
- The league’s leader in dimes was Trae Young, but we’ll set him aside since he made rookie scale money ($8,326,471). The No. 2 man, Chris Paul, served up 702 assists against a $30,800,000 salary, or $43,874.64 per assist.
How Much Does Smart Make Per Steal?
- In the regular season, Smart posted 119 steals. That means he made $120,498.19 per steal.
- NBA steals leader Dejounte Murray recorded 138 and earned $15,428,880. That’s $111,803.47 per steal — comparing the two players’ rates, that’s a difference of less than 8%. And of course, Murray can’t claim to be the Defensive Player of the Year.
Is Marcus Smart Underpaid?
This season, Marcus Smart proved that he could definitively take on starting point guard role for the Celtics and excel. In past years, fans of the team were hesitant of Smart to have the ball in his hands for extended periods due to what was often poor shot selection in bunches. Since the team traded Schroder, Smart has been Smart (pun fully intended) with the ball and has honed an ability both to collapse defenses and get fouled or kick the ball out to a plethora of potent scorers.
He may still be streaky as a shooter, but his ability to create for his teammates makes him a clear net-positive on offense — to say nothing of his status as arguably the single best defensive player in the game today.
So, is Marcus Smart underpaid based on the current terms of his contract? To the Celtics, his current form is everything the team has needed — he helped to limit the effectiveness of both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant in a four-game sweep of the Nets, so he may as well priceless. If the team had traded Smart away only to see him unlock this next level of his game, they would have regretted the decision for years.
He’ll have to show that he can continue running the offense for a potential NBA title contender while also being the most impactful perimeter defender in the land. Most importantly, if he maintains or adds to his consistency throughout his upcoming four-year extension, the argument that Marcus Smart is undervalued remains as strong as his gravity on the court.
Looking at other earners at the point guard position, you’d be hard-pressed to argue that D’Angelo Russell ($30,013,500, No. 7 salary among point guards), De’Aron Fox ($28,103,500, No. 9), or Malcolm Brogdon ($21,700,000, No. 11) contribute more to winning basketball than Smart currently is. With all this in mind, a hypothetical $25,000,000 annual salary that would have placed him just ahead of Brogdon and behind Kyle Lowry as the No. 11 highest-paid point guard in the league in 2021-22 would have been more than fair.
Compare that theoretical figure to the $19,121,999 AAV on his extension. Think the Celtics are happy with their investment?