Payton Pritchard isn’t necessarily a major offseason prize in the NBA summer, but clubs around the league are certainly keeping tabs on the Celtics guard as he heads toward the final year of his rookie contract.
The (perhaps) 6-foot-1 Pritchard saw his playing time take a dive this season with the acquisition of Malcolm Brogdon and emergence of Derrick White. But even when Brogdon was limited by injury in the playoffs, Pritchard still got into just half of the Celts’ 20 games, and that was mostly in mop-up work (two appearances were less than a minute, another was 1:06).
The club still values him, but if changes are to be made without upsetting the top of the rotation, Pritchard and his $4 million 2023-24 salary could be currency in the marketplace in facilitating a larger trade.
Pritchard Would Welcome a Trade
The fact he has made no secret that he wants to be somewhere he can play regularly also factors into the equation.
“A lot of guys think that, but hardly anyone ever comes out and says it,” one league source told Heavy Sports. “He’s a little bit of a psychopath, that kid. He’s got great intensity, but he’s different.
“He plays hard, but there are going to be questions about his size and his defense, with everyone playing pick-and-roll and forcing switches. It’s harder to target him so much with Boston, because they’ve got such a good defense … at least they did until what we saw in some of those playoff losses — whoa.
“But if you’re thinking about trying to pick him up, you have to be sure he’s going to play for you. Otherwise he’s not going to be happy, and you’ll be in the same boat.”
Has Playing a ‘Team Game’ Hurt Pritchard?
According to scouts and other front office sources, the fact Pritchard brings the same energy and relative shooting proficiency even if he comes into a late-game situation cold is on the credit side of his ledger.
“He works hard and he knows how to play the game,” said one general manager. “There’s definitely interest in him around the league, for sure.”
There is also, however, concern that Pritchard is caught in a traditional young player process.
“I don’t see where he ever just went after his own. He moved the ball and played a team game,” the GM added. “But he has to be looking at his career and where it’s going.
“Players coming into the league first want to earn the respect of their peers. They want to establish themselves. Second, they want to get paid, and, third, they want to win. It doesn’t mean they all don’t want to win at the same time, but the priorities are different.
“Even young great players, they don’t know that it takes other stars to play with, and you’ve got to learn to get along. He’s no different than anybody else. They just want a chance to prove they’re better than an every third game for 10 minutes kind of player. You don’t really feel like you’re part of winning when it’s like that. Like, Stacey King’s got rings (three with the Bulls), but does he feel like he ever got a chance to prove he could play?”
Another source in a similar position summed the uncertainty.
“I like him. I definitely think he can help a team. But he needs to be in a perfect situation to get a 25-minute-a-game role,” he said. “I’m not sure where that is.”
More Heavy on Celtics News
Loading more stories