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Payton Pritchard will be important moving forward

The Celtics guard was not traded at the deadline, despite rumors and public comments of a want for a bigger role.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Detroit Pistons Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday night, rumors emerged that the Boston Celtics were gauging the NBA’s interest in the value of a package that contained both Payton Pritchard and Danilo Gallinari. Shortly after the Toronto Raptors acquired Jakob Poeltl via trade, we heard that the same package was offered to the San Antonio Spurs, along with some draft compensation.

“League sources tell MassLive that Boston offered Payton Pritchard, Danilo Gallinari, and multiple future second-round picks for the big man ahead of Thursday’s deal. Ultimately, the Spurs elected to go with the Raptors’ offer which included a top-6 protected first-round pick for 2024, two future second-round picks, and center Khem Birch,” MassLive’s Brian Robb reported.

You do feel for Pritchard, though. Just a few months removed from a consistent bench role throughout Boston’s NBA Finals run, he now finds himself struggling for a consistent role, which in turn, affects his ability to provide a consistent impact when his number is called.

Malcolm Brogdon’s arrival has certainly had an impact on Pritchard’s floor time — just as Dennis Schroder’s did throughout the first half of last season. From the Celtics' side, their incredible depth across the guard positions is fantastic. There aren’t many teams that could lose their starting point guard and barely feel his absence, yet with Brogdon, Derrick White, and Pritchard all lining the bench, that’s the position the Celtics find themselves in.

To his credit, Pritchard has remained professional, kept his head down, and continued working.

“I’m just gonna stay professional, show up every day, work, and control what I can control. That’s all I can do,” Pritchard said back in November.

However, over the last few weeks, there have certainly been some moments where he has peeled the curtain back a little and allowed us to see his hunger for a larger role in the near future. Take Pritchard’s appearance on the Point Forward podcast with Evan Turner and Andre Iguodala, for example.

I definitely do (want a bigger role). It’s obviously what I work for. I think that’s what Brad and them know, too. We’ve had that discussion but — a bigger role. I want to be part of a winning culture, but I want to also help that, be a really big piece of that. I’m not saying it’s the best player on the team, but I don’t know what my future holds unless I can take that next step. I don’t know what it is in five or 10 years, but I just want to look back and know that I put my best foot forward. I put all the work in so whatever happens, I can live with (it) as long as I did it my way. That’s the most important thing for me.”

To some, Pritchard’s comment could be construed as that of a disillusioned guard looking for his way out. I don’t see it that way, though. Instead, I see a young player who has proven to himself that he’s capable of producing at the NBA level and now wants to see just how far he can go.

The amount of work it takes to make it to the NBA, especially as an undersized ball-handler, and then to earn minutes on one of the strongest rosters in the league, it’s hard to fathom. Nevertheless, Pritchard has overcome every obstacle thrown his way and, during this recent run without Smart, has reaffirmed his usefulness to the Celtics, even if his role is that of a depth piece.

Whether Pritchard remains on the roster beyond the summer is another question, which can be answered at a later date. However, for now, Fast PP is in a position most people dream of since childhood — he’s a member of a championship-caliber NBA team and getting meaningful minutes on the basketball court.

Unfortunately, those minutes might not be what he’s used to (he’s averaging a career-low), nor what he wants them to be, but there are plenty of players in worse positions on less talented teams.

Brad Stevens might have been gauging his value at the trade deadline, but that was likely just a reconnaissance mission for later in the year because right now, Pritchard has a role to play, an important role, a role that could help sustain a long playoff run. It’s just that the same role might not lead to much playing time in the post-season.

But do you know what it could lead to? A championship ring and those have a way of altering your career trajectory, regardless of what number you were on a team's bench.

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