The No. 26 overall selection in the 2020 NBA Draft, Payton Pritchard arrived in Boston with moderate expectations. Since then, the former Oregon Duck has put himself on the NBA map with a brilliant showing over the first half of his rookie campaign.
Pritchard Mania may have cooled off recently. Although that has more to do with the Celtics‘ struggles as a whole, rather than his own. Still, the point guard looks to be a prominent puzzle piece in Boston’s future – or at least one would think.
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Payton Pritchard on the Move?
The Celtics are not right. They boast arguably the league’s most dynamic under-25 duo in basketball with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, yet sit two games under .500 with five games until the All-Star break. The team’s underperforming ways have led fans, analysts and moms and dads alike to call for Danny Ainge to go full “Trader Danny” at March’s deadline.
While many eyes have focused on potential players Boston could yield in a trade, The Athletic’s Jared Weiss opted to shed light on a player the Celtics could potentially move off of. Recently presented with the idea of acquiring Hawks big-man John Collins, Weiss noted that dealing a 2021 first-round pick alongside guard Payton Pritchard is not out of the question.
“Pritchard is definitely moveable,” Weiss claimed. “He’s established himself as a good sixth man option and he’s only 23, which of course is geriatric for a rookie but young for a rotation player.”
Payton Pritchard: Good Role Player or Impactful Starter?
Pritchard has done a lot of great since arriving in Massachusetts. He’s outpaced fellow rookie Aaron Nesmith in minutes (drafted 12 picks ahead of Pritchard). He’s jumped former All-Star Jeff Teague in the rotation. Plus, he’s proven more consistent than Kemba Walker, yet another former All-Star, with regularity.
The numbers this season have been far from gaudy for Pritchard. He’s averaging a mere 7.3 points and 2.3 assists per game. Yet, take a closer look and you’ll see a player who’s been proficient when offered opportunities. While he’s slowed down a bit of late from beyond the arc (37.1% from three on the season), just two weeks ago Pritchard was outpacing all-time great shooters with his hot start from deep range.
Despite glimpses of brilliance, Weiss warns against perceiving Pritchard as more than he actually is.
“Fans fall in love with role players and tend to forget how vast the gap is between a good role player and an impactful starter,” Weiss said. “Players like Pritchard are vital to a contending team, but they’re also much easier to find than players with Collins’ profile.”
Will the Celtics be pushing to move Pritchard at the deadline? Almost certainly not. Yet, he’s shown enough to warrant legitimate intrigue if Boston were to dangle him in talks. Chances are the team doesn’t want to trade fellow backcourt-mate Marcus Smart. If Smart’s current injury has proven anything, it’s that his leadership and playstyle are crucial to Boston’s success. Furthermore, the presence of players such as Carsen Edwards and the aforementioned Aaron Nesmith makes the idea of dealing Pritchard a little more fathomable.
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