The Boston Celtics will be adding Malcolm Brogdon into a guard rotation that includes Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Derrick White, and Payton Pritchard this coming season. Those are five guards to play in only 48 minutes of basketball a night. Celtics insider Steve Bulpett believes having more veterans around will help Head Coach Ime Udoka’s comfort level, but it may leave Pritchard as the odd man out, which he thinks is not a good idea.
“This year, he’s got more veterans to play with,” Bulpett said. “That will give any coach a greater comfort factor. But then again, I fear a guy like Payton Pritchard could get buried again. Even with more people in the backcourt, you still have to find minutes for a shooter like that and a guy who can advance the ball like that.”
Bulpett believes that Udoka may limit Pritchard since he did something like that during the 2021-22 season.
“I think he leaned on veterans a little bit more than was healthy at times. I think he went away from guys who needed minutes, younger guys.”
The Celtics gave Pritchard a bigger role after trading away Dennis Schroder and Josh Richardson, to which Pritchard showed improvement. In the 26 games he played post-trade deadline, Pritchard averaged 8.6 points a game while shooting 48.2 percent from the field and 45.4 percent from three in 17.4 minutes a game, according to NBA.com.
His numbers were a vast improvement compared to what they were pre-trade deadline. In the 45 games he played leading up to the deadline, he averaged 4.5 points a game while shooting 38.5 percent from the field and 37.1 percent from three in 12.2 minutes a game, according to NBA.com.
He played well enough that Udoka played him in all 24 of the Celtics playoff games, including their last game of the season in Game 6 of the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors. Brogdon being on the roster could change how much playing time Pritchard will get regularly.
Bulpett is not the only one who thinks Pritchard may be on the outside looking in the rotation this season.
Pritchard Called Offseason ‘Loser’
On August 4, 2022, Zach Buckley wrote an article detailing who among the Celtics players he considered to be winners and losers. Buckley labeled Pritchard a loser because of the minutes’ crunch the Celtics will have coming into the season.
“Unfortunately for Pritchard, Boston’s backcourt looks as deep as ever. All three perimeter starters—Brown, Tatum and Marcus Smart—are still around. So is deadline acquisition Derrick White, plus the aforementioned Malcolm Brogdon. Even rookie second-rounder JD Davison scored a two-way deal and could carve out a small niche with his explosive athleticism.
“Where does this all leave Pritchard? Certainly in no better shape (rotation-wise) than last season and arguably in a worse spot. While consistent minutes might help him make a more consistent impact, Boston simply has too many better options ahead of him to make that happen.”
It’s very possible that Pritchard will be the fifth guard on the Celtics’ depth chart when the season comes, but there is a way he could play his way into the rotation
How Pritchard Could Get Minutes
Jared Weiss reported on July 7 that the Celtics will rest Al Horford more this season by limiting his minutes and sitting out more games.
“They will certainly need center depth, as Al Horford is expected to sit out most back-to-backs and have his minutes limited even further next season, according to team sources,” Weiss said.
If that’s the case, Pritchard could play more in games when Horford has the night off. More specifically, he could play in three-guard lineups featuring Smart, Brown, or White like he was during the 2022 NBA Playoffs. And Brogdon too, for that matter.
The Celtics will need to find ways to conserve Horford so that they get the playoff performance from him that they just did this past season. Going smaller with Pritchard is not a foolproof game plan, but it is an option.