Welcome to Week 2 of Three Leaf Clover, CelticsBlog’s week in review. We are quickly approaching the actual regular season where the points count, and the games do matter. Can’t wait. In the meantime, here’s three things that caught my eye this past week.
Stat of the Week - 29.3% assist percentage
Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of Boston’s backcourt reshuffle is Payton Pritchard. After seeing his minutes decrease for two straight years, PP will play, but the bigger question is: will he play make? Pritchard has had the ball in his hands quite a bit in these half-serious, half-pickup games in the preseason. With two high minute guards out the door and only one replacing them, there’s going to be opportunities for another ballhandler to emerge, especially one that can get downhill, get into the paint, and find open shooters.
Historically, that has not been PP’s game. His 15.3% assist percentage last year was 125th in the league among qualified players, lower than noted point guards Josh Hart and Royce O’Neil. While his 9.18 drives per-36 last year was a respectable number, he did very little with them, shooting 35.9% with a lowly 10.6% assist percentage. There’s legitimate concern that Pritchard will be relegated to undersized shooting guard the majority of his career.
Well, he’s come out firing in the preseason, and I don’t mean from three (although he’s definitely doing that too). That 29.3% number above is Payton Pritchard’s assist percentage so far. Who said this man couldn’t pass?! That’s exactly what Josh Giddey’s assist percentage was last season! I don’t have his assist percentage on drives because apparently NBA.com doesn’t track that during preseason (which is something I definitely should have checked before using that stat in the previous paragraph), but I have a very good feeling that’s a lot higher as well. And who needs advanced stats when you have “good feelings?” Not me, that’s who.
Do I think Pritchard will keep up this lofty level of playmaking during the entirety of the season? No, but he looks more aggressive and comfortable with the ball and is getting into the teeth of the defense regularly. He’s also making higher level reads all over the floor.
This is very good stuff from PP. Not the type of pass he's made when the ball is in his hands earlier in his career. Starting to understand defenses. pic.twitter.com/mTCi7lPlaA— Wayne Spooney (@WSpooney) October 12, 2023
While I don’t suspect Pritchard will reach the lofty goals of the very best shooting and play making guards, even minor improvement as a passer will be huge for his value as an offensive player. So far, Playmaking Preseason Payton Pritchard’s been snatching this opportunity one dime at a time.
X’s & Oooooohhhh’s - Svi knows how to play
I’m a West Virginia University fan which means many things, most of them disappointing. One of the things it means (this is high level writing) is that I despise just about every single Kansas Jayhawk in the NBA, with Paul Pierce being one of the few exceptions. If you don’t know, Svi Mykhailiuk was a Jayhawk, and he was a very good one at that. He destroyed WVU. This game still pains me. Svi scored 12 points over the last 7 minutes to steal a Kansas win in Morgantown. WVU was ranked 6 nationally, Kansas 10th. I was at the game; everyone was very sad afterwards, including me.
So, it’s with this immense negative bias that I went into watching Svi this preseason. To say he’s impressed would be an understatement, but I don’t know a better word to use without consulting a thesaurus and that feels like cheating. The phrase “playing the right way” is one of those half-tangible basketball non-sequiturs that sort of has a definition, but not entirely. Well, Svi embodies playing the right way on the offensive end. He understands spacing, he moves without the ball, and he makes quick decisions.
Here he is driving a closeout under control, making the correct read, and hitting Banton on time and on target.
Svi just understands how to play in a modern, spaced NBA offense. pic.twitter.com/vtC3378Fhn— Wayne Spooney (@WSpooney) October 12, 2023
He reads the ball and defense in real time and moves subtlety to get himself open.
Instinctual lift from the corner when his defender turns his head. Open three, buried. pic.twitter.com/giuRCpipTS— Wayne Spooney (@WSpooney) October 12, 2023
At times, the Celtics offense has ground down and the ball gets stuck. Svi’s natural instinct runs counter to that (as does Derrick White’s). He wants to move ball and body quickly and attack a rotating defense.
He's got a bit of Derrick White's quick decision-making gene. One of my favorite attributes in a player,. pic.twitter.com/50NP01whjZ— Wayne Spooney (@WSpooney) October 12, 2023
When you are playing well and loaded with confidence, sometimes you just gotta let it rip.
Shooting the ball with a ton of confidence right now. pic.twitter.com/qHMaCJnrWM— Wayne Spooney (@WSpooney) October 12, 2023
There are some real reasons why Svi hasn’t found sustained success in this league, but he ended last season playing excellent basketball and it’s translated into the preseason. If he keeps it up, he’s going to get real minutes this season.
Non-basketball stuff of the week - Derrick White not top-100
Dear ESPN, you have made a lifelong enemy of the city of Boston. Excluding Derrick White from the top-100 players isn’t just silly, it’s not just dumb, it borders on criminal. I’ve been endlessly making phone calls to Boston PD in order to prosecute this, despite them asking me to stop. That’s how determined I am to stop you. In my last call, they let me know that they’ll be filing a restraining order, presumably against you.
Derrick White is one beatiful player ☘️— Tomek Kordylewski (@Timi_093) October 12, 2023
11 points, 3 boards, 4 assists, 2 steals, 3 blocks
He's gonna have a 5-5-5-5-5 game one day, isn't he? pic.twitter.com/VXlXNrrwCQ
As Kevin Pelton put it, there’s a better case for Derrick White in the top-50 than outside the top-100. Even if you aren’t a huge fan of all-in-one advanced stats, the manner in which they all agree that White is close to a top 50 player is compelling. Here’s a quick sampling:
DARKO - 57th
538 RAPTOR - 10th
Net Rating - 3rd
ESPN’s RPM - 27th
Even their own stat has him within the top-30! There’s only one reasonable explanation: they simply forgot about him. If they came out and said, “oops, we totally forgot Derrick White existed,” I would get it. Making lists is difficult, numbers are confusing, things happen, but the attempt to justify it is frustrating.
Long live Derrick White, may he be a Boston Celtic for the rest of his career.