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Payton Pritchard’s passing and poise are underappreciated

His assist-to-turnover ratio is among the league leaders.

Boston Celtics v Memphis Grizzlies
Payton Pritchard looks for a teammate against the Grizzlies.
Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

As a shooter, there’s nothing more frustrating than missing shots you’ve consistently hit your whole life. Your mind starts to race, you question everything, and you wonder where you went wrong.

What separates great players from average ones is the ability to positively affect the game in other ways. Payton Pritchard is a key role player on the NBA’s best team in large part because of his shooting, yes, but also because of his playmaking ability.

Pritchard did what every shooter should when shots aren’t falling. He looked for his teammates and made a steady stream of hustle plays. Now, his shots are falling, and the lasting habits he fine-tuned during that uncharacteristically down stretch haven’t disappeared.

He’s fourth in the NBA in net rating (13.0), which is extremely impressive and shouldn’t be taken for granted. Yes, he has talent around him, but he’s an integral part of that talent winning games.

What might be even more important, though, is his assist-to-turnover ratio of 4.45 (15th in the NBA). That’s 2.9 assists per game, with a career-low 0.6 turnovers per game. Added opportunity hasn’t led to added chaos. He realizes that oftentimes, the “get the ball to Tatum” play and the “throw it to the 7-foot-3 guy” play are the best options.

He’s not afraid to spread the wealth, though, and this game against the Pacers – in which he racked up nine assists – is perhaps the best example. These passes are on the money, come at unique angles and set people up in their personal wheelhouse.

Pritchard’s ability to shift between the 1 and 2 shouldn’t be taken for granted, either. His knack for playing both on and off the ball is critical for this team.

When Jrue Holiday is out there, or the Celtics want Jayson Tatum handling, Pritchard can spot up as a shooter. When the Celtics want to give Tatum, Derrick White or Jaylen Brown a break and Sam Hauser is on the wing, Pritchard can assume point guard duties seamlessly.

Pritchard has only turned it over two times or more once in November. This month: 0, 1, 2, 0, 1, 0, 0, 0, 1, 0, 1, 0, 1, 0. That’s while playing anywhere from 13 to 33 minutes a night. He’s dropped three or more assists in nine of those 14 games as well.

He thrives as a stabilizer alongside Brown and an energizer alongside Hauser. Pair him with anyone, and he’ll provide what that teammate needs to succeed. He’s often pegged as a shooter, but there’s so much more to his arsenal.

Plus, his shooting has opened up in large part because of the way he’s let the game come to him.

The Celtics took a leap of faith with Pritchard this offseason with a four-year, $30 million extension. After an admittedly slow start, he’s starting to make that look like a very wise decision.

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