The 26th overall pick in the NBA Draft, Payton Pritchard, is poised to make an impact early on in his rookie year for the Boston Celtics.
In regards to the NBA Draft, Boston Celtics team president and general manager, Danny Ainge, said that he was just trying to select the best players that were available to them at the time. With their 26th overall pick, that player was Oregon’s point guard Payton Pritchard.
Pritchard, who is coming out of college at 22 years old, elected to stay in the NCAA for a fourth year. By doing so he established himself as a sharp-shooter from behind the arc by connecting on 41.5 percent of his shots during his senior season with the Ducks. He went on to average 20.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game last season.
At 6’2” and 190 lbs. Pritchard has evolved into a well-rounded and accomplished basketball player. After winning four state titles in high school, Pritchard earned second-team All-Pac-12 in 2018 and was MVP of the Pac-12 Tournament in 2019. As well as becoming an All American in 2020 and being selected to his first All-Pac-12 First-Team. He also was awarded Pac-12 Player of the Year and recipient of the Lute Olson and Bob Cousy Awards in 2020.
It’s worth noting that the Bob Cousy Award is given to the best point guard, while the Lute Olson Award is given to the best non-freshman in the NCAA. Needless to say, the Celtics selected arguably one of the best and most promising players in the nation.
Pritchard finished his four-year Pac-12 career as the only player in Pac-12 history to eclipse 1,900 career points (1,938), 500 rebounds (550), and 600 assists (659). All of which caught the eye of Ainge who is an Oregon native himself. He had this to say about his new rookie point guard moments after the draft:
“Payton is just a guy that I’ve been attracted to the way he plays. He brings a great intensity, even as a freshman, and watching his development into his senior year where he had to carry much more of an offensive load. But he’s a guy I think can play in any system. He can play with any players. I love how he pushes the pace. He’ll make guys run.” – Danny Ainge, per NBC Sports Boston
Pritchard wants to bring a winning mentality to the Boston Celtics
Pritchard is confident in his abilities on the court. He can effectively facilitate the floor and score from anywhere at any time. He has a fast first step to the basket and is capable of driving through a defense with his quick cuts and outstanding ball-handling skills that makes defenders look lost. When it comes to shooting, all he needs is one step of separation for him to put it in the basket and he knows it.
“Well, I can really shoot it, dribble, pass, but I think the biggest thing that I bring to the Celtics is just a competitive nature, a winning mentality type of guy that fights for everything, works for everything.” – Payton Pritchard, per Aaron Fentress of Oregon Live
One very important element to the NBA that Pritchard will need to prove himself on is playing defense at the professional level. If he can continue being the gritty and tough defender that he was in college he should be able to find himself on the court more often than not. Celtics head coach Brad Stevens regularly says that a player needs to prove himself on defense to earn minutes on his team.
ESPN college basketball analyst, Jay Bilas, said this about Pritchard’s defensive skills:
“He is a competitive defender even though he’s not the greatest athlete. He stays in front of you when he guards in front of the ball, and he’s got really good hands. He constantly fights.” – Jay Bilas, per Sean T. McGuire of NESN
With the Boston Celtics giving second-year point guard and NBA G-League Rookie of the Year Tremont Waters another two-way contract this season, there’s plenty of reasons to believe that Pritchard will be the third point guard on Boston’s roster behind Kemba Walker and Jeff Teague to start the season. And with the uncertainty of Walker’s looming knee injury, there will be a strong possibility that Pritchard finds himself on the court early on in his rookie season.