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Marcus Smart, Patrick Beverley

Editorials

Who’s the scrappiest player in the NBA?

Who’s the scrappiest player in the NBA?

Monday night will feature a matchup between two of the most rugged defenders in the NBA when Marcus Smart’s Boston Celtics take on Patrick Beverley’s Los Angeles Clippers.

You would be hard-pressed to find two scrappier players in the league, so that beg questions the question: Just who is the scrappiest player in the NBA?

If the Celtics or Clippers are involved in a brawl in one of their respective games, you can bet that Smart or Beverley will be at the center of it. These two guys are agitators, and they will also fiercely defend their teammates.

Smart has always been known for his hot temper, dating back far before his days at Oklahoma State. While he is affable with the media and has an incredibly likable personality, it becomes a different story when you make him angry.

Just ask J.R. Smith. Or DeAndre’ Bembry. Or DeMarcus Cousins.

There is a long list of players with whom Smart has gotten into altercations, and that list seems to grow by the year.

marcus smart

But the thing with Smart is, the term “scrappy” is kind of an injustice to who he is as a player overall. After all, Smart is actually very skilled, possessing underrated court vision and solid passing ability. He has also developed into a better 3-point shooter, as he is shooting 37.1 percent from beyond the arc this season.

Not only that, but Smart has a high basketball IQ, particularly on the defensive end where he makes seamless rotations and knows how to guard different types of players.

Basically, Smart is an extremely valuable player whose four-year, $52 million contract is actually a steal. Let’s also remember that Smart was a No. 6 overall pick, so it’s not like he is some underdog story. He was expected to be very good in the NBA, and while he is far from a premier scorer, he is an outstanding all-around player who is unquestionably worth his draft position.

Now, as for Beverley …

The feisty point guard was a second-round pick of the Los Angeles Lakers back in 2009 and was immediately traded to the Miami Heat. However, Beverley never actually played a game for the Heat, and it wasn’t until January 2013 that he received his first genuine opportunity when he signed with the Houston Rockets.

Beverley ended up playing in 41 games for the Rockets that season and instantly won the fans over with his passion and aggression. He then made a name for himself in infamous fashion during those playoffs, when he tried to steal the ball from Russell Westbrook while Westbrook was calling timeout, causing Westbrook to wrench his knee and tear his meniscus.

From that point on, some have labeled Beverley a “dirty” player, but in all honesty, it’s hard to come up with a clear argument for the floor general being dirty.

The guy just plays hard and lays his body on the line night in and night out. I guess he does blur the line between “clean” and “dirty” because of his style, but given the fact that he is 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds and isn’t all that skilled, he has to play that way to remain in the NBA.

Make no mistake about it: Beverley would not be in the league today if it weren’t for his tenacious defense and intensity.

Just take a look at the Clippers’ game against the Los Angeles Lakers last week. Beverley actually asked to defend LeBron James and did an admirable job, fighting the much bigger James on the block and actually making life difficult for him.

patrick beverley, lebron james

After the game, Beverley said that the reason he asked to defend James was because of LeBron’s time in Miami. As soon as James got to the Heat during the summer of 2010, Miami got Beverley, and Beverley still remembers that to this day.

Last Friday, Beverley defended 6-foot-8 Oklahoma City Thunder star Paul George and held him to 3-of-10 shooting on possessions where he was guarding him. A truly amazing feat.

It just goes to show how far toughness can take you in the NBA. Beverley is not going to be winning any skills competitions and isn’t going to be leading the league in any statistical categories, but his impact on the game is undeniably great.

I’m not sure you can find a player currently in the NBA who does as much as Beverley does with as little skill.

Beverley is one of those guys who is a fan favorite if he is on your team. He gives it his all every single night and never backs down from a challenge, which is why he is the scrappiest player in the NBA.