After the Boston Celtics selected Aaron Nesmith with the No. 14 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, president of basketball operations Danny Ainge followed it late in the first-round drafting Oregon guard Payton Pritchard at No. 26.
ESPN analyst and 2008 Celtics champion center Kendrick Perkins couldn’t contain himself when the pick was announced to him on live television. Perkins joined NBC Sports Boston’s coverage of Wednesday night Draft and immediately sang Pritchard’s praises to anchors Tom Giles, Brian Scalabrine, and Michael Holley.
“Love it, love it. He was one of my sleepers,” Perkins said. “Look, this kid can flat out go, he’s relentless, I don’t know why they had him so low on the Mock Draft but I love him. “I keep telling you all; Danny Ainge and I have the same type of brain cells, we think alike. This is a hell of a pick-up for them. I love it; that’s all I got to say. I love it. He was one of my sleepers and I’m glad that Danny picked him.”
When Perkins was asked to elaborate, he described Pritchard as the type of player who can help the Celtics’ offense right away due to his high basketball-IQ and outside touch.
Kendrick Perkins’ Assessment of Payton Pritchard: ‘He’s A Go-Getter, He Is A Flat Out Bucket’
“He’s a go-getter, he is a flat out bucket,” Perkins said. “He’s clutch. He has a very high IQ, can shoot the ball from anywhere on the floor; as I said, he can shoot it at a high percentage. His trey-ball is wet and boy, does Danny know how to go get his players. He’s going to add so much shooting to this team. I love it, I love this pick by Danny Ainge.”
This isn’t the first time Perkins fell in love with a prospect selected by Ainge. Just last year, Perk called Grant Williams one of his favorite underrated prospects prior to the start of the 2019 NBA Draft and when the Celtics selected Williams at No. 22 in the first round.
Perkins compared Williams to his former teammate Glen ‘Big Baby’ Davis, adding that Grant is “a killer” but without the “multiple personalities” unlike Davis. However, the former Celtic wasn’t the one in love with Ainge’s decision to draft Prichard.
Damian Lillard On No. 26 Pick Payton Pritchard: ‘Yougin Worked His A** Off’
Portland Trail Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard also tipped his hat to the Celtics’ late first-round choice. He took to Twitter to congratulate Pritchard.
“Yougin worked his ass off and earned it!” Lillard wrote.
Congrats to Payton Pritchard ! Youngin work his ass off and earned it!
— Damian Lillard (@Dame_Lillard) November 19, 2020
For Ainge, Pritchard checked many of the boxes that he looks for in a rookie and told reporters after the Draft that he believes Pritchard is a gifted facilitator who plays with a lot of effort.
“Payton is just a guy that I’ve been attracted to the way he plays,” Ainge said. “He brings great intensity, even as a freshman, and watching his development into his senior year, where he had to carry much more of an offensive load. But he’s a guy I think can play in any system. He can play with any players. I love how he pushes the pace. He’ll make guys run. He’s playing with the ball in his hands.
“He gets the ball up the court very quickly and I think that’ll be a help to get the rest of the players up the court very quickly. He has that kind of leadership ability with the ball in his hands. He’s a fun player and I’m very excited to get him.”