Most Boston Celtics fans probably have shared a similar experience while watching Marcus Smart play over the last six seasons.
He pulls up for a 3-pointer, you cringe at the shot selection based on his track record from beyond the arc, and as the ball hits its highest trajectory and falls towards the hoop, he sinks it and surprises you.
Maybe the first four years of his career will forever prevent people from considering him a shooter, but believe it or not, he leads the NBA in one specific type of triple.
Twitter user @statcenter looked into the best 3-point shooters off the dribble (per 100+ attempts) and found that Smart’s 42.2 percent was tied with J.J. Redick to lead the NBA. That’s pretty good company.
MassLive’s Tom Westerholm asked Celtics coach Brad Stevens about what the tipping point was for Smart.
“I think the biggest thing — and we’ve talked about this ad nauseum — when he’s got a good look, take the good ones, and he’s done a pretty good job of that,” Stevens said.
“Obviously had some big scoring games, but he’s not forcing that. And I think that’s important, because when you force the tough ones off the dribble, that’s when your percentage will go way down.”
Off the dribble or the pass, Smart’s gotten much better from deep.
The improvement can be traced back to when Smart signed a four-year contract extension with Boston before the 2018-19 season. He shot a career high 36 percent from three last season, and currently sits at 35.9 percent.
He’s made 109 of 306 attempts from beyond the arc so far this year compared to last season’s breakout year of 126 triples on 346 tries. He’s improved every year since the 2015-16 season, where he finished with a career-low 3-point average of 25.3 percent, per the NBA’s stat site.
When it comes to catch-and-shoot 3-pointers, Smart is hitting 32 percent of his 194 attempts.
Though he says throwing up a trey off a pass is easier for him, Smart explained to Westerholm why he likes shooting off the bounce.
“I’m able to get my rhythm even more,” Smart said. “Catch and shoot, you’ve got to generate your own rhythm, whereas with the ball, you kind of got a pace. You can kind of feel it. But catch and shoot is easier for me. For some guys, it’s harder because you have to generate that, but for me that’s catch and shoot and let it fly. But I love shooting off the dribble, just because I’m able to get a rhythm that way as well.”