Payton Pritchard has been a revelation for the Boston Celtics since being given a larger role within the team’s rotation.
To begin the season, Pritchard found himself glued to the bench due to the off-season addition of Dennis Schroder, who had left the Los Angeles Lakers after being unable to agree on a new contract. However, at the February 14 trade deadline, Brad Stevens opted to send Schroder to the Houston Rockets as part of the deal that saw Daniel Theis return to Boston.
Since then, Pritchard has been an ever-present in Ime Udoka’s eight-man rotation and has been performing at a high level to prove he deserves to remain in the Celtics head coach’s thoughts.
In his recent column for Heavy.com, Steve Bulpett noted how one NBA coach has some regret over failing to recruit the six-foot-one guard when he was coaching in the collegiate ranks. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the coach shared his thoughts on the surging Celtics guard.
“It was the best individual workout I’ve ever seen because of the intensity he brought. It was a one-hour workout of just all-out hustle at 6 o’clock in the morning. I mean, he went hard. It was game speed for an hour.
You know, there are people that really like basketball and people that LOVE basketball, and Payton LOVES basketball. That’s why he is who he is. He’s always going to find a way to succeed,” the coach said.
Pritchard Proving He’s Not a Defensive Liability
Whenever you have an undersized player, the common conception is that they’re a weak link on the defensive end of the floor. Teams will often try to force switches onto the smallest defender in order to continually attack a mismatch or to force a coach into pulling said player.
Yet, teams quickly learn that Pritchard isn’t a push-over and that he’s going to fight and claw on every possession. As he’s grown in confidence, Pritchard’s defensive game has become more bullish, and now he looks like a viable rotation guard regardless of the potential match-up on the floor.
“I just try to take pride in defense, you know people, because of my size and stuff, they wanna say that I can’t defend of something. So, I’ve got a chip on my shoulder in that aspect, and I’m out to prove that I’m not somebody you can go out, and I’m going to make it tough,” Pritchard said during a recent press conference.
It’s well-known fact that Udoka is incredibly strict on his players being viable in his defensive schemes, after all, defense is the Celtics calling card, and the best way to remain a stern opponent is to have no weak links on that business end of the parquet.
Marcus Smart Approves of Pritchard’s Defense
If you’re a point guard playing in the NBA, and you pride yourself on defense, Marcus Smart is your measuring stick. The Celtics guard is an outside bet for Defensive Player of the Year this season and should be considered a sure-fire entry for the 2022 All-NBA Defensive First Team.
Smart epitomizes what it means to be a Celtic, and he’s also grown into a valuable locker room leader this year. So, it should come as no surprise that the 28-year-old guard is leading the praise for Pritchard’s recent performances – most notably on the defensive end.
Pritchard’s sudden rise to prominence hasn’t come as a shock to Celtics fans, as we saw what the guard was capable of during his rookie season. However, even last year, we never knew that Pritchard was capable of playing lockdown defense for multiple possessions, nor that he had the strength to switch onto opposing big men for short spurts.
So, while the NBA coach might be regretting missing out on Pritchard during the college recruiting phase, odds are he’s ruing not having him coming off the bench for his team now, too.