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Why I'm unreasonably optimistic about Payton Pritchard

Considered a reach by many, I'm excited to see what Pritchard has to offer

Payton Pritchard holding up his Celtics jersey

Coming into the 2020 NBA Draft, many were unsure of what Danny Ainge had cooking up behind the scenes. With the yearly rumors swirling of a possible blockbuster trade from Ainge, this time for James Harden, Danny unsurprisingly decided to stay put and use his picks in one of the least concrete drafts in recent years. After selecting Aaron Nesmith, a sharpshooting wing, at #14, Ainge surprised a lot of basketball fans by taking Payton Pritchard at #26.

Pritchard was considered at best a late 1st, early 2nd round pick, despite his impressive college resume. During his 4 year stint of being the starting point guard for the Oregon Ducks, Pritchard's offensive game improved every year. He was rewarded for that growth in his final year of school by being named the Pac-12 Player of the Year and winning the Bob Cousy award (nation's best PG). Pritchard not only put up numbers, but also wins, leading the Ducks to win the PAC-12 title and finishing 13th in the AP Poll.

Payton brings a versatile offensive game to the C's bench which desperately needs some playmaking. And if there is one thing Pritchard did well at Oregon, it was get a bucket when needed. He averaged 20.5PPG, shooting the 3 ball at a .415 clip on 6.8 attempts in his senior year, with many of those shots being from NBA range. It may take a bit of time to get his game up to the speed of the NBA, but he showed flashes of basketball IQ in his time at Oregon, generally making the right play when available to him. His playmaking was good enough for 5.5 assists per game, in an offense where he was expected to be the primary scorer.


The one drawback against Pritchard's game coming into the NBA is his lack of athleticism at an NBA level, which some say will hinder his game. I'm not worried about it given the craftiness he showed in college. He routinely finished at the rim against bigger and more athletic defenders because of his excellent body control, and was often able to create shots for himself with his step back.

Coming in as a 22 year old rookie (two months older than Tatum), Pritchard's ceiling may be limited  compared to some of his 18 year old peers. But on this C's team looking to compete for a title, Pritchard might've been the most NBA ready guy available at pick #26. And we've seen this story before. The last few years we've seen older guys like Malcolm Brogdon, TJ McConnell, and Fred VanVleet (who Pritchard has been getting comps of) drop in the draft because they're viewed as having less potential. If Pritchard ends up being somewhere in the realm of those guys, this pick is 100% a win for Ainge and the Celtics.

If that doesn't convince you, check out what he's been doing in camp and tell me he doesn't sound like a Boston Celtic to you:

He will be fighting for minutes in a crowded but competitive backcourt of Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, Jeff Teague (check out Erich's breakdown here), Carsen Edwards and Tremont Waters. But with Kemba out to for a few weeks, Pritchard will no doubt be giving it his all to secure minutes early in the season, given his extremely competitive nature.

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