Marcus Smart FAQ: Everything you wanted to know about ‘Smarf’

Can Marcus Smart shoot or not? What is “The Cobra Strike”? What’s the greatest Smarf meme ever? This Marcus Smart FAQ has all your answers.

Marcus Smart is a defensive dynamo, a vessel of suave and the Boston Celtics‘ spirit animal. After six NBA seasons and a thousand meme-able screenshots, the edges of his game and his on-court personality are pretty well defined. But you still have questions. Luckily, we have answers.

So, can Marcus Smart shoot or not?

For most of his career, outside shooting has been the biggest weakness for Smart. He made less than 30 percent of his 3s in two seasons at Oklahoma State and then again across the first four seasons of his NBA career. Last year was a bit of a breakout, with him hitting 36.4 percent, but this year’s he’s backslid to 34.8, albeit on far more attempts.

There are two issues to untangle here — Smart’s “true” ability level and any progression in that skill against the inherent noise you’ll find in measuring with about 250-350 attempts per season. One of the best public tools we have for answering questions like this is Kostya Medvedovsky‘s DARKO system, a machine learning-driven basketball player box-score score projection system. The system is designed to be updated daily with new data points, accounting for recency, and offering essentially a real-time estimate of a player’s skill level in different areas. Using graphs from DARKO, we can see that even accounting for noise and random variance, Smart has clearly improved as a 3-point shooter, starting with the 2017-18 season.

DARKO estimates that Smart’s “true” 3-point shooting ability is that of roughly a 36 percent shooter which, coincidentally, is right around what he’s shot the past two seasons on just over 700 attempts. So, yes, Smart can shoot.

Who has Marcus Smart shut down the most in his career?

The best way to measure this is with the NBA’s Second Spectrum player tracking matchup statistics, which are unfortunately only available for the past three seasons. Still, three seasons is a reasonably large sample size to find a few players who have been thoroughly stymied by Smart’s aggressive defense.

The first and most obvious victim is poor R.J. Barrett. The Knicks’ rookie had Smart as his primary defender for just over 32.4 possessions this season, on which New York mustered just 23 points (71.0 points per 100 possessions). Barrett, individually, scored six points on 2-of-8 shooting with one assist and one turnover.

Kemba Walker was surely excited to join a contender in the Boston Celtics but simply avoiding Smart as a defender may have been a bonus. Over the two previous seasons, Smart defended Walker for 77.8 possessions, holding him to assists 23 points, 2 assists and 4 turnovers. That’s a bad but not horrible stat line but the Hornets, as a team, managed just 77 points on those possessions.

However, the most fun point in the matchup data here is Smart defending Ben Simmons — a conference rival who happens to have a seven-inch height advantage. Over the past three seasons, regular season and playoffs, Smart has defended Simmons for about 87 possessions on which Simmons has managed just 16 points, 9 assists and 10 turnovers. Admittedly, the 76ers offense has been successful as a whole in these situations but watching him endlessly frustrate a much bigger and more offensively talented player is the most essential part of the Smart experience.

Did he really donate his blood to help find a COVID-19 cure?

Yes, he did. On March 19, Smart announced on Twitter that he had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, although at that time he was symptom-free. On March 30, he announced that he had recovered and been cleared of the virus. According to ESPN, he was one of (at that time) four NBA players who had tested positive and volunteered to donate his blood for the research of possible treatments:

Michael Joyner, an anesthesiologist at the Mayo Clinic, told ABC News that at least four NBA players who have recovered from the infection plan to donate blood for the National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project, an experimental treatment that could help high-risk patients recover from the virus.

Why do people call him “Smarf”?

The nickname was birthed from an autocorrect error in a tweet from @HerbertOfRiffs, noted hallucinatory Celtics fan and general man about town. Over the years, other nicknames for Smart have been auditioned including, hound dog, wolverine, and the cobra. Those nicknames may better capture the aesthetic of Smart on the court but Smarf has stuck because it’s the perfect encapsulation of his weird energy and the deep spiritual bond between him and his most passionate fans.

Long live Smarf.

Is Marcus Smart “bout that life”?


If he’s so good on defense, why has he only made one NBA All-Defensive Team?

Smart is one of the league’s most tenacious defenders but the structure of this awards leaves only four guard spots to be meted out between both conferences. When you consider the power of legacy it’s not surprising that players like Chris Paul, Tony Allen and Patrick Beverley edged him out for spots early in his career. But Smart was a First Team selection in 2018-19 and that spot may be his to lose for the foreseeable future.

What is the best Marcus Smart hairstyle?

Smart’s offensive game may be pretty vanilla but his hair is anything but. Through the years we’ve seen: the mohawk, the blond mohawk with a twist, the normie fade, the loose braids, the horns, and the shamrock and No. 36 combination in the braids. Smart himself doesn’t seem to have one he prefers and recently ran a brief contest on Twitter to find an answer:

From those four options, the objective answer is clearly D. If we’re putting everything we’ve already seen on the table, let’s go with the horns. If we’re including hypotheticals, the answer is obviously a Robin Lopez do.

What is “The Cobra Strike”?

The Cobra Strike is Smart’s signature defensive move. It takes different forms based on the situation but, as Smart told The Athletic’s Jared Weiss, it’s all about lulling the offensive player to sleep.

“When he puts the ball in this hand, this is what’s coming. When he decides to attack this way, I know what’s coming next, because he’s done it over and over and I’ve watched him do it. So now, you kind of bait him to thinking, ‘OK, I can do my move now,’ like you’re a possum. You kind of play dead and then boom! You pop up on him. So I make him think, ‘I can get to my move, I got him beat.’ Then out of nowhere, I strike.”

It’s not always used to attack an opposing ball-handler lazily advancing the ball, but that is certainly the most dramatic scenario.

What is Marcus Smart’s net worth?

According to Spotrac, Smart has estimated career earnings of just under $40 million on his basketball contracts, with another $27 million due over the next two seasons on his current deal with the Celtics. That’s a healthy chunk of change to invest but the stack could be a little larger if he hadn’t paid $322,848 to the NBA over his career as fines for technical fouls, suspensions and other infractions.

What’s the greatest Marcus Smart meme ever?

As the favorite muse of Weird Celtics Twitter, it’s possible that as much as 3.6 percent of the world’s digital data storage is currently devoted to Marcus Smart memes. Start here and let the tsunami of funk wash over you. In this cornucopia of visual delights, reasonable people can disagree on what it means to be the best. For my money, it’s mustache-and-crushed-purple-velvet Smarf.

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