For the second straight season, Payton Pritchard has found himself falling down the pecking order in the Boston Celtics rotation due to the addition of a veteran guard. Unfortunately, unlike Dennis Schroder, Malcolm Brogdon isn’t going anywhere, and as such, Pritchard’s tenure with the team could eventually be cut short.
However, it would appear that Pritchard’s limited role this season has done little to deter teams around the league from enquiring about his availability via trade; in fact, it’s encouraged them, with MassLive’s Brian Robb reporting that the Golden State Warriors have carried out their own due diligence.
“Payton Pritchard’s lack of consistent playing time in the Celtics rotation has unsurprisingly led to a number of playoff teams inquiring about the availability of the reserve guard including the defending champion Golden State Warriors, league sources tell MassLive,” Robb wrote.
Pritchard, 24, is currently in the third year of his rookie-scale deal and is under contract for the 2023-24 season before he becomes a restricted free agent. That tea control makes Pritchard an appealing commodity, but it would appear that Boston is reluctant to part ways with a playoff-tested guard who has proven himself to be a valuable insurance policy should injuries crop up throughout the season or during the post-season. During Boston’s run to the NBA Finals, Pritchard participated in all 24 games, averaging 4.8 points, 1.9 rebounds, and 1.6 assists while shooting the ball at a 42.2/33.3/66.7 clip.
Furthermore, Pritchard has continued to prove himself when the Celtics have been short-handed this season and has recently been providing admirable coverage for the injured Jaylen Brown, who is currently dealing with an abductor strain.
Can we just give Pritchard his flowers? Consistently playing bigger than he is...whether it's an ORB or a rearview block. Dude hustles his butt off. pic.twitter.com/7RSLr4rh9F— Adam Taylor (@AdamTaylorNBA) January 17, 2023
From the Warriors' standpoint, Pritchard would be an ideal backup guard — capable of playing off-ball as a two-guard, shooting the deep three, and is at his best pushing the pace and moving relentlessly. Yet, logically speaking, the Celtics will likely be reluctant to strengthen a team they may face in the Finals for the second straight year, especially when their own guard rotation has some genuine questions about its longevity.
It’s often easy to forget that Marcus Smart is still playing with a shard of glass in his hand, which can sometimes lead to a loss of feeling, and could crop up at any moment.
“Ever since the picture frame incident...Still have some glass in there. Said it would probably cause more problems to take the glass out, so they just left it in, so I still have glass in my hand. Sometimes I can’t feel my hand, but it comes back,” Smart said.
With so many injury concerns among the guard rotation and the fact that Boston is a genuine championship contender this season, Pritchard may remain with the Celtics for the duration of his contract, or, at least until the summer when Brad Stevens has more flexibility to make moves that benefit the team.
Regardless, Pritchard is currently in position to play a part in a potential banner season, the first one since 2008, and when you’re this close to the mountaintop, you do everything within your power to get there, even if it means keeping a player in a lessened role. According to Jayson Tatum, everyone on the roster is on the same page, so, one would assume that also includes Pritchard.
“Everybody has to sacrifice to be on a great team. We have individual guys that come off the bench that could start on the majority of other teams. We got guys that start that could average more on another team. But anybody will tell you how much fun and rewarding it was last year in the playoffs to keep advancing, keep winning, to make it to The Finals. And, no individual stat or accolade can measure up to being on a winning team that’s having fun. There’s nothing better than that,” Tatum said.
The February 9 trade deadline is still three weeks away, so, of course, there is a chance we see Pritchard move onto a new challenge, but right now, it makes more sense to keep him exactly where he is. He simply provides too much value for what the Celtics are trying to achieve. Not bad for a player nobody expected to pop when Danny Ainge drafted him with the 26th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.