After a tumultuous season for the Celtics, we begin the offseason discussion. With a few key pieces of last season set to hit free agency, we must look at what the Celtics need to hold on to. There is no player on this team that is more valuable than Marcus Smart. While an unpopular opinion, a case can be made that Smart was the team MVP last season. Here’s why:

Smart has expertly defend high-caliber players like LeBron James

All-NBA Defensive First Team

When you here the name Marcus Smart, you probably think of how great a defender he is. Smart made his first All-NBA defensive first team this year. However, Marcus ‘Winning Plays’ Smart has been putting on the clamps all five years he’s been on the C’s. Averaging 1.6 steals in his career, Smart is sneakily good at pickpocketing the ball. His biggest impact is that Marcus’ defensive plays always seem to alter the course of the game in favor of the C’s.

Marcus Smart: Locker Room Leader

Smart doesn’t receive enough praise for his leadership qualities. For one, he brings a competitive edge to the team. This edge is sometimes the difference between them winning and losing. The Marcus Smart mentality also is a huge help come playoff season, which is why the Celtics have enjoyed recent postseason success. Smart is also a leader in the fact that he is always on his teammate’s side. Kyrie Irving is a great example. Many times this season analysts have pointed to Kyrie’s leadership as a source of the team’s woes. When Marcus Samrt was asked about this, he said the claims were ‘B.S.’. Even if Kyrie is a bad teammate, Smart was not willing to throw him under the bus. That’s leadership right there.

He is the prototypical Boston athlete

When we talk about what a Boston athlete should be, we often think of Tom Brady. Highly competitive, chip on his shoulder, and always seems to find ways to win. Bruins Defenseman Zdeno Chara and Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia are other examples of this. For the Celtics, their version of the ‘Boston Athlete’ is Marcus Smart. Smart has always played like he wasn’t getting enough appreciation (he wasn’t). He also is always competing, all the way down to the final seconds. It’s this reason alone why Marcus Smart is the team’s MVP, and its not even close.