By embracing ‘big’ challenge, Holiday is helping fill Smart’s void originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
Gushing about the unique capabilities of the Boston Celtics having a guard capable of defending all five positions might seem somewhat incongruous, given that it’s a luxury the team has enjoyed for most of the past decade.
However, there was a clear baton pass this summer as the Celtics sent out Marcus Smart and later acquired Jrue Holiday, marking an obvious distinction in the team’s roster.
Since Holiday’s acquisition in October, the Celtics have heavily relied on his defensive versatility. NBA tracking data indicates that Holiday has spent less than half of his on-court time defending other guards this season, showcasing his ability to defend big men on opposing teams.
For a glimpse of Holiday’s defensive splits based on position, per NBA tracking:
The time Holiday has spent defending opposing centers is significantly higher than in previous seasons, demonstrating his adaptability and the Celtics’ need for defense against larger players.
Over Boston’s first nine games, Holiday has been dispatched against top-tier players like Julius Randle, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Joel Embiid and has excelled in those matchups, limiting their effectiveness.
Here’s a closer look at the 10 players that Holiday logged the most single-game matchup time against this season, a register of All-Star hopefuls:
Overall, Holiday is holding opponents to 36.7 percent shooting, which is the second-best mark among all NBA guards who defend at least 10 field goal attempts per game this season.
Fellow Celtics teammates have lauded Holiday’s defense, noting his ability to disturb opponents and his challenging defensive presence.
Holiday’s defensive prowess has helped fill the void left by Smart, who is known for his disruptive defensive play. While the experiences of Smart and Holiday are similar, there are noticeable differences in their approach to defense.
The Celtics are fortunate to have landed Holiday to replace and enhance what Smart brought to the team. Both players have set the defensive intensity with their willingness to take on the challenge of guarding the best scorers on the other team, regardless of size.
Seeing Smart on the court again will undoubtedly evoke a swell of emotions, as the Celtics strive to maintain the defensive tenacity and versatility Smart brought to the team for so many years.
Ultimately, while no one can fully replicate what Smart brought to the team, Holiday’s defensive abilities have endeared him to Celtics fans, showcasing the best parts of Smart’s defensive play.
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