WALTHAM (CBS) – The depth chart of the Celtics backcourt enters this offseason chalk full of question marks. Rajon Rondo remains under contract for one more season with the team, but Avery Bradley and Jerryd Bayless are free agents. Shooting guard Keith Bogans is likely to make a permanent departure via trade. Chris Johnson and Phil Pressey are signed for the next couple years, but their non-guaranteed deals open up the possibility both could be dealt or released at any time this summer.
With the team weighing a number of options at this position, the Celtics brought in a fairly loaded group of guard prospects to evaluate at the team’s practice facility in Waltham on Friday.
Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart highlighted the group that consisted of a number of potential first round picks including Michigan’s Nik Stauskas, Michigan State’s Gary Harris, Missouri’s Jordan Clarkson UCLA’s Zach LaVine, and Louisiana-Lafayette’s Elfrid Payton.
Smart is the only prospect on that list with the possibility of being drafted by the Celtics in the six spot, making him one of the best guards available, right behind Australian guard Dante Exum.
Exum has elected to not work out for the Celtics thus far, as he’s hoped to go higher in the first round than Boston’s sixth overall selection and has limited his workouts to those teams. Smart has rejected that kind of attitude thus far, choosing instead to work out amongst a wide variety of teams.
“I told my agent, Lee Melchionni, you see all these guys dodging [workouts],” Smart said Friday. “My biggest attribute, to me, I’m a competitor. I show my best skills when the game’s on the line, when somebody’s guarding me, and there’s competition.”
Competition is exactly what Smart would find if he landed in Boston with Rondo remaining at the helm at point guard for the time being. That possibility didn’t seem to deter Smart from the possibility of playing with or behind Rondo. Instead, that’s an opportunity he would welcome.
“Rondo’s one of the greatest point guards to ever play this game,” Smart said. “If I’m fortunate enough and Boston picks me, and that means I have to sit on the bench (behind) Rondo, that’s an honor to learn from one of the greatest point guards in that position. Especially with me playing the point guard position, he’s been playing it for a while…It would be an honor.”
Smart continued to praise Rondo and compared some of his own strengths to the veteran point guard.
“Everybody knows Rondo’s a fighter, on defense he’s a guy you don’t want to play against if you’re an offensive player. He harasses the ball. He’s a pest. That’s kind of what I am. Especially with my size, I’m 6-4 and I can move very well, and my length, it causes problems (for opponents).”
Smart is relatively small for a guard but one of his strongest assets is his strength (227 pounds). As he said, his ability to defend multiple positions with ball pressure will bold well for any team including the Celtics that might want to draft him. In fact, there’s no reason why Smart wouldn’t be able to share the floor with Rondo on occasion, if the Oklahoma State product can improve his jump shot and space the floor.
In a draft loaded with potential at both forward positions, Smart is about as NBA-ready as they come. Don’t be surprised to see the Celtics go with the youngster if the team keeps their sixth overall pick on June 26th.
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