When asked which young players have impressed in training camp, Marcus Smart, the longest tenured Celtic, pointed to Payton Pritchard. “I kind of had a feeling that he would be a guy that would be a standout,” Smart said of the rookie.
Brad Stevens echoed those sentiments. “I’m not surprised he stood out to Marcus. He has a lot of courage, a lot of grit. He’s tough. He’s physical. He can shoot. He’s certainly had a good couple of days. That’s why he was picked in the first round.” Suffice to say, if you’ve got Marcus Smart’s attention, you’re doing something right.
A four-year starter at Oregon, Pritchard comes into Boston with polish, experience and an expectation of playing a role right away to help the team’s bench. What can Celtics fans expect from their new backup point guard? He’s a good shooter who can space the floor, come off screens and share the floor with other creators like Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown. The versatility to play on-ball and off-ball was necessary in finding a long-term fit in the backcourt.
Pritchard is a respectable creator out of the pick-and-roll, too. He scored at an efficient level, knocked down shots and finished at the hoop, and made a number of solid passes to open teammates when the floor was spaced appropriately. The savvy of his hostage dribbles and tight handles, combined with his four years of experience, could make him one of the more NBA-ready prospects to go late in the first-round.
The injuries to Kemba Walker that will keep him out of the lineup to start the season means opportunity is available for Pritchard to show his skills right away. I’d expect to see Brad Stevens try to put the rookie in situations he’s most comfortable when he has to be on the floor. That would mean a steady diet of ball screens for the former Oregon Duck.