WALTHAM, Mass. -- Boston Celtics second-year guard Marcus Smart is shooting an impossibly low 19.5 percent from beyond the 3-point arc this season. Of all NBA players with at least 50 3-point attempts, only one player ranks lower: Teammate Evan Turner at 14.8 percent.
Both Smart and Turner are flirting with a dubious spot in 3-point history. According to Basketball Reference, only two players over the past three decades to attempt at least 100 3-pointers in a season have finished below 20 percent shooting overall (a list topped by Lance Stephenson at a mere 17.1 percent last season with Charlotte).
The Celtics knew Smart was going to be a bit of an offensive project when they snagged him with the No. 6 pick in the 2014 draft. But right now he's marred in an offensive funk that has left some Boston fans disappointed by the lack of progress on that end, particularly given just how much of a menace he's asserted himself as on the defensive side.
With Winter Storm Jonas not only forcing Saturday's game against the Philadelphia 76ers to be postponed, but leaving Boston unable to even travel out because of conditions in the northeast, Smart had a plan for the rare snow day: Extra 3-point work.
"It’s just repetition. I haven’t really had time to get in and get up shots," Smart said, referencing Boston's hectic January game schedule that's included playing seven of its last 11 games on the road over little more than a two-week span.
"That’s why I’m staying here right now. So the snow is actually a pretty good thing for me so I can get up some shots."
Smart, the team's starting point guard to open the 2015-16 season, missed 18 games due to a knee injury and, since returning on Dec. 27, has played in a reserve role with Isaiah Thomas putting together an All-Star caliber season from the starting spot. While Smart gave Boston a jolt with his familiar defensive intensity upon returning, he's really struggled with his shot.
Over his last 14 games, Smart is averaging a mere eight points per game on 33.3 percent shooting over 25.3 minutes per game. He's made only 7-of-45 3-point attempts (15.6 percent), and that included missing five triples in Friday's win over the Chicago Bulls.
Smart admitted Saturday that he's been frustrated that his off-day work hasn't translated to gameday makes, but said it won't stop him from working through it.
Asked if his confidence was hurting, Smart said: "A little bit. But you get back in the gym and you keep going. You try not to let it affect you too much. After the game, the game’s over with, you take 10 or 15 minutes to yourself. And after that you’ve got to let it go. It’s on to the next one."
Despite his offensive struggles, Smart has had a positive impact for Boston this season. Boston owns a defensive rating of 97.3 with Smart on the floor -- second-best among regulars behind only Kelly Olynyk -- and Smart's net rating is plus-3.3 points per 100 possessions. Boston's offensive rating does jump more than two points with Smart on the bench, reflecting the uptick the team gets when having someone like Thomas on the floor instead (though Thomas, Smart, and Avery Bradley have shared the floor more often recently in three-guard, small-ball lineups).
In the 14 games since Smart's return, the Celtics' offensive rating is 6.5 points higher when Smart is off the floor (climbing to a stellar 107.9). The flip side, however, is that Boston's defensive rating has been 8.8 points lower when Smart in on the court, once again reflecting his defensive impact.
With a goal of generating offense more efficiently, Smart has been attacking the basket more often recently, whether that's driving harder at the rim or posting up a shorter defenders. Smart is also third on the team in free-throw attempts per game, trailing only Thomas and Jae Crowder.
"That’s one of my main thoughts is to try to get myself going, seeing the ball go in with some easy buckets, getting to the rim, trying to get to the free-throw line a lot more," said Smart. "And then start taking those shots where my brain sees the ball go in, confidence starts to go up a little bit, and hopefully get a rhythm that way."
While Stevens seems content to leave Thomas in a starting role given the way Boston's first unit has more consistently generated points with him shouldering the scoring load, the Celtics could still use an uptick in bench production. While Olynyk ranks in the top 10 in 3-point shooting in the league, even he can't balance out the struggles of Turner and Smart.
What's easy to forget now is that Smart shot the ball well at summer league and seemed like he was ready to take a step forward after shooting just 36.7 percent overall (and 33.5 percent beyond the 3-point arc) as a rookie.
Smart ranks ninth among all NBA point guards in defensive real plus/minus this season, but he ranks 80th out of 83 players in offensive RPM. He's a defensive menace who will garner consideration for the NBA All-Defensive team with his effort and tenacity, but Smart absolutely has to develop as both a shooter and distributor.
So he's trying to maximize all available downtime to work towards that progress, including the rare NBA snow day.