Celtics Mailbag: Underused Point Guard Still Has Value

Payton Pritchard of the Celtics, right

Getty Payton Pritchard of the Celtics, right

Welcome to the latest installment of Heavy Sports’ Celtics mailbag.

Insider Steve Bulpett will answer your questions — those pertaining to current league issues and even some offbeat perspective and opinion from his 37 years covering the NBA. (Want to know what former league city he misses most? Want to know about the Celtics’ first-ever trip to Sacramento?)

We’ll try to tackle it all here in the Heavy mailbag.

Leave your questions in the comments section below or email them to sean.deveney@heavy.com. We look forward to hearing from you.

Pritchard Trade & Grant Williams Non-Extension

Could the Celtics get anything for Payton Pritchard if they traded him? Do you think they would?

Paul A.

Los Angeles

Pritchard, still on his rookie scale contract, would certainly get some interest around the league, but not enough to tip the scales and make him more valuable on the market than he is for the Celtics.

Malcolm Brogdon’s injury history has to be a concern, and Marcus Smart is always a threat to dive into an injury while seeking a loose ball. But beyond that, Pritchard is a bona fide shooter, which he proved when given a chance after the Celts loosened up minutes for him last year. His drop in production later in the playoffs coincided with his drop in minutes and opportunity.

He would appear to be on the fringe of the rotation, especially after Rob Williams returns and Derrick White is presumably removed from the starting lineup. But depth always seems to play a part in a long regular season, and Pritchard has proven he can produce when given a reasonable chance.

Why would the Celtics not give Grant Williams a new contract? Is there a chance he would really go somewhere else next year?

Jake C.

Portland, Maine

There was really nothing more to the failed Celtics-Williams extension negotiation than the two sides being unable to find a number that worked for both.

The fact Williams will be a restricted free agent after this season, with the Celts having the right to match any offer he may get, means the club will only lose him if it chooses to do so. If Williams has a great year, he will likely command more than the C’s offered this time around. But if he plays that well, they won’t necessarily mind paying him his worth.

The only other difference between signing now and waiting is that Williams could have gotten four years at the higher rate now and could sign for five years next offseason.

The Defensive Plan vs. Joel Embiid

A lot of teams in the East worry about Joel Embiid I think too much. The Celtics have always done a good job on him even if they have smaller guys. How come they are able to do that and other teams can’t?

Mike C.

Reading, Mass.

Well, Embiid is averaging 26.0 points and 11.4 rebounds for his career — and 26.1 and 12.3 against the Celtics (26 and 15 on opening night). So the C’s aren’t exactly shutting him down. And while Boston did sweep the shorthanded Sixers in the playoff bubble, Philly has won eight of the last 12 regular season meetings.

Embiid made half his shots on Tuesday at the Garden, but he’s batting .454 against the Celtics from the field for his career — a decent piece worse than his .490 mark against everybody. In other words, he has to work a little harder against the Celts to get his numbers… but he does get them. And he might get them more easily if he and James Harden really get in gear with their pick-and-roll game that has shown such brilliant flashes.

The C’s can survive against Embiid, as they did in the first game, by throwing a lot of different looks at him so he never gets truly comfortable. And that will be helped immensely if they are at full strength and Rob Williams is part of the defensive plan.

Also, it’s important to get out in transition as much as possible against the Sixers, which the Celtics did to the tune of a 24-2 edge in fast break points Tuesday.

Who’s an old Celtic who would be better playing in today’s kind of game?

Daniel K.

Suffield, Connecticut

There’s probably not enough space on the internet to go through all the former Celts who could thrive in a league without hand-checking and the other assorted felonies that used to be an accepted part of the NBA. But the biggest difference is not only the 3-point shot but how much it is used nowadays.

The Celtics have had their share of bombers (I remember watching Jo Jo White drill shot after shot from long distance while he was giving a talk at a camp). But let’s just briefly examine the case of a Mr. Larry Joe Bird.

Check this out: Steph Curry took 801 3-pointers in 63 games two years ago and 750 in 64 last year for a 1,551 total. The most Bird ever hoisted in a season was 237 in 76 games in 1987-88.

Larry took 1,727 treys in 13 years. Curry, debuting 30 years later, took 7,290 in his 13 seasons heading into this one and got up 13 in his opening game Tuesday. Bird averaged 1.9 attempts per game from the distance for his career.

Will Hunting might have a hard time calculating what Larry would have done in this 3-point-crazed version of the NBA.


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