The Boston Celtics have had a great lineage of hall of fame back court players. In addition to list of hall of famers such as Bob Cousy, Bill Sharman, Frank Ramsey, Jo Jo White, Sam and KC Jones, Don Chaney, Tiny Archibald, Dennis Johnson, the Celtics have also been host to Rajon Rondo, Isaiah Thomas and now Marcus Smart- all stars in their own right.
When it comes to the Celts best defenders in the backcourt, the list shortens up. After a lot of contemplation, this “basketball boomer” settled in on Larry Bird’s favorite teammate, Dennis Johnson and Celtics current 2022 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, Marcus Smart.
There’s no question that Dennis Johnson was one of the best defenders in the NBA during his playing days. He was named to the All-Defensive First Team six times and helped lead the Boston Celtics to two NBA titles. But is he really a better defender than Marcus Smart?
Smart might not have the same accolades as Johnson, but he’s considered by many to be the best defensive player in the league today. He has an uncanny ability to anticipate opponents’ moves and always seems to be in the right place at the right time. He also has a knack for making big plays when it matters most. Just ask Lebron James, who called Smart “the toughest player I’ve ever had to go against.”
In terms of pure defensive skill, there’s no doubt that Smart is a on the same step but is he a step above Johnson? What really sets him apart is his competitiveness and tenacity. He never takes a play off and always gives 100% effort. Johnson was certainly a great defender, but when talking about defensive guards ONLY, Smart is in a class by himself.