Celtics May Trade Young Guard to Aid Frontcourt Depth: Analyst

Derrick White, Payton Pritchard

Getty Derrick White and Payton Pritchard of the Boston Celtics.

The Athletic’s John Hollinger’s season preview for the Boston Celtics was published on October 6. Hollinger had a lot to say about the Celtics’ rotation, including what he thinks the Celtics should do with guard Payton Pritchard after what they’ve experienced in the last month, which includes Danilo Gallinari being out indefinitely and Robert Williams III for the next few months.

“Deeper on the bench are two other decent options in Grant Williams and Payton Pritchard; Williams becomes very important now, as he’ll need to soak up frontcourt minutes with Gallinari out and Robert Williams uncertain. However, the backcourt is now crowded enough that one wonders if Boston should trade Pritchard for more size.”

After acquiring Derrick White back in February, then trading for Malcolm Brogdon during the offseason, a case can be made that the Celtics don’t have as much use for Pritchard in their guard rotation. Especially since all indications are that when Williams returns, the Celtics will start him along with Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Al Horford like they did last year, but that can change.

Pritchard was seldom used during the first half of the 2021-22 season, as Dennis Schroder took most of the backup point guard minutes. However, from February 8 to the end of the regular season, he averaged 8.6 points while shooting 48.9 percent from the field and 45.5 percent from three, according to NBA.com.

Celtics’ Other Frontcourt Options

With Williams out for the next few months, the Celtics will turn to Luke Kornet, Grant Williams, and Blake Griffin to fill in for Williams while he rehabs from arthroscopic knee surgery. The Celtics signed Griffin to a fully guaranteed one-year contract shortly before it had been confirmed that Luke Kornet had suffered an ankle injury during practice.

Although Griffin is 33 years old and is a six-time NBA All-Star, he is not the player he was when he played for the Los Angeles Clippers and Detroit Pistons. Last season with the Brooklyn Nets, Griffin averaged 6.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 1.9 assists while shooting 42.5 percent from the field and 26.2 percent from three.

Griffin also racked up a lot of DNPs with the Nets last season. Head Coach Steve Nash did not play Griffin in the postseason until Game 3 against the Celtics because he lacked other options in the frontcourt.

The Celtics have been high on Kornet, as demonstrated by Brad Stevens’ Twitter likes, but that doesn’t change that he’s not proven. Grant Williams is coming off an excellent campaign, but he and Horford are the only proven dependable bigs on the roster until Robert Williams returns.

If Griffin and Kornet prove to not be enough, the Celtics may have to entertain the prospect of trading Pritchard for a frontcourt body who could fill the void.

Hollinger Calls Celtics’ Lack of Moves ‘Dumbfounding’

After signing Danilo Gallinari and trading Malcolm Brogdon, the Celtics did largely nothing in the offseason besides re-sign Sam Hauser and Luke Kornet until they added Blake Griffin on September 30.

In his season preview for the Celtics, Hollinger condemned the Celtics for not making more moves after landing Brogdon and Gallinari.

“It’s the most dumbfounding offseason move that nobody is talking about. Even as other teams filled out their rosters with veteran players signing for the minimum or intriguing “second draft” players, Boston stood pat.”

While the Celtics didn’t add any new faces to the roster during the offseason between the Brogdon and Gallinari moves and signing Griffin, they courted Thomas Bryant in free agency before he signed with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Hollinger also proposed a solution in case this turns into a problem for the Celtics.

“One presumes the Celtics will get this worked out to the point that it’s a bit more tolerable, possibly signing another veteran free agent big guy from his couch (former Celtics legends Tristan Thompson and Enes Freedom remain available) and likely adding another wing player at some point (please?).”

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