Over the last week or so, the Boston Celtics have gotten hit hard by the COVID bug. Eight different players have entered the league’s health and safety protocols, plus the team has dealt with some outlying injuries as well. While that’s not ideal for the team as a whole, some individual players have taken advantage of the opportunity.
Dennis Schroder was out with a non-COVID-related illness that kept him out for a couple of games. That opened the door for sophomore point guard Payton Pritchard. He took the chance and ran with it.
Since the first game Schroder missed on December 17th against the Golden State Warriors, Pritchard has appeared in every game the C’s have played. He’s averaging 20.9 minutes in those contests, putting up 9.3 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 2.3 assists while shooting 53.6 percent from the field and 41.2 percent from deep. Not only has he been playing well, but Schroder has struggled in his return.
In the two games since he’s been back, Schroder’s only played 21.8 minutes per game. He’s averaging 5.5 points on 19.0 percent shooting from the field. In total, Schroder shot 4-for-21 from the field and 0-for-3 from three-point range. It’s only been two games, and Schroder may very well still be recovering, but he’s looked rough.
Ime Udoka even went with Romeo Langford in the starting lineup over Schroder last game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. He stated that this was to “add more size” to the starting lineup, but to be honest, Langford outplayed Schroder as a whole. If Schroder continues to play this poorly, there’s no reason for him to be getting minutes over Pritchard, too.
This may seem harsh considering the season Schroder is having. He’s picked the Celtics up when they’ve been down time and time again. With Jaylen Brown’s nagging hamstring injury, Boston has needed Schroder’s shot creation and ball handling. So far this season, the German point guard is averaging 16.3 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 4.7 assists while shooting 42.5 percent from the field and 32.8 percent from deep.
Unfortunately, when Brown is in the lineup, Schroder’s production falls off a cliff. With Brown also in the lineup, Schroder is averaging just 11.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 4.6 assists while shooting 30.8 percent from the field and 30.0 percent from deep.
For him to be at his best, Schroder needs the ball in his hands. He’s most effective when controlling the pace and running the offense. But when Brown is available, he’s obviously going to have the ball in his hands a lot less. Boston should want the ball in the hands of their best players (Jayson Tatum and Brown) and their best playmaker (Marcus Smart) the most.
In addition, Udoka has consistently emphasized the need for ball movement. He wants his team to play together and not worry about their individual performance. Well, when Schroder gets the ball in his hands, it sticks like glue. His average time of possession per game is 6.1 - the next highest on the team is Tatum at 4.5. Schroder also averages 5.04 seconds per touch - the most on the team.
Pritchard, on the other hand, is a much better off-ball player than Schroder. When surrounding the Jays with talent, Boston should be putting as much shooting around them as possible. Even after an extremely slow start from deep, Pritchard is shooting better on catch-and-shoot threes than Schroder this season (35.1 percent vs. 32.3 percent). Pritchard started the year shooting 5-for-18 (27.8 percent) on catch-and-shoot threes. From his explosion against the Portland Trail Blazers to now, he’s shooting 8-for-19 (42.1 percent).
Not only would Pritchard be a better fit from an off-ball perspective, but it would also eliminate the stagnant offense that Schroder causes. Giving Pritchard Schroder’s minutes would improve the Celtics’ brand of basketball. This would also open the doors wide open for Boston to trade Schroder before the February deadline.
While Schroder deserves a ton of credit for keeping Boston afloat during Brown’s absence, the harsh reality is that he doesn’t fit in with the Celtics when they’re fully healthy. With Schroder slowly falling out of favor in the rotation, Boston should start to see Pritchard thrive. In turn, trading Schroder away will not only become more possible, but should be considered the best path forward.