I started out down on Smart, started coming around on him because of his hustle, eventually began recognizing his talent, and am full-on fanboy now. Where I struggle with Marcus is where I also struggled with Rondo--namely, the ability to do a bunch of brilliant things interspersed with some terrible shooting decisions. Obviously they won last night, the play you mentioned was awesome, and 16 points & 10 assists is perfectly respectable if not lights out, but there were a number of WTF-level decisions he made as well.
I've made my peace with the notion that what makes Marcus Smart great is his willingness to be utterly reckless on the court. His hustle plays, his aggression, his calmness and self-assurance, is all the other side of the coin from his confidence in taking a terrible shot or trying to attempt a pass that would look super cool if it came off (but it got picked off). I don't think one can exist without having to put up with the other. All we can root for is for him to improve specific skills at the margins to minimize the impact of those decisions (like becoming a better 3-point and FT shooter, or changing his footwork near the rim to protect his feet and knees).
It's also why, despite my general love for Smart, I find myself just enjoying Time Lord more and having him grow into my favorite player. There is an entirely different type of magic about players who just have a completely unfair advantage
in the sporting world. I think it's what made Pedro's game so aesthetically captivating to me, that he could just unload a barrel of deception, power and precision that would make world-class hitters despair. Every time I see Time Lord square up on a smaller shooter who then is terrified into passing the ball away or not even trying a shot that's likely to get blocked, I laugh. NBA players are afraid
of him! Who or what the hell else have you ever seen an NBA player afraid of? Bird, maybe. Jordan, maybe. Shaq, Giannis, sure. But Robert Williams?
But even if that's my preference, I can't help but recognize why Smart is the favorite of so many other fans. There is something so distinctly human and everyman about his game. He is big by normal standards (6'3"), but achieveably so, he's not a physical freak of nature. What he does seems like most of us could do it, if we could muster inside ourselves the will to always give 100% focus and effort, if we were so committed we would sacrifice ourselves readily and often. Maybe there's some magic to his quick hands for steals, or to his passing eye, but not a remarkable amount. He is the sum of maximizing gifts that aren't all that unusual or remarkable by basketball standards. Robert Williams' talents are god-given, but Smart's seem like the result of hard work and sacrifice, of out-preparing his opponents. Smart is more like Tom Brady than he is like Randy Moss, at least directionally. None of us can imagine being Time Lord, but we could sometimes allow ourselves to be inspired by a Smart, to think that we could be a bit more like him, in a sporting context or otherwise. To be that committed to a team, or to our work, to wringing every last drop of potential out of what we're given.