The Boston Celtics had plenty of room to improve after their opening game Tuesday night in Philadelphia, but rookie Payton Pritchard was a big bright spot in the loss.
The No. 26 pick overall ended with 16 points, four rebounds, and two assists in 22 minutes with a 6 out of 10. Other than a few forced assists, Pritchard appeared relaxed and confident throughout his professional start. He was patient while managing offense, and showed promising speed for a junior goalkeeper. Pritchard played a great role after the match, however, he seemed well aware that this was just the tip of the iceberg.
“Frankly, she was just trying to get into the flow of things,” said Pritchard. “Obviously it’s a slightly different game than college level. This is my first time, so a little bit nervous. So really just trying to get a feel out there and that was pretty much it.”
It’s important not to overreact – he only played one game before the start of the season. The differences between that and a regular season setup are enormous, but Tuesday night confirmed some of my earlier insights into the impact Pritchard could have in his first season. More specifically, it makes you think about what it brings along with some of its peers.
Pritchard’s size gives him a defensive advantage over some of the other young Boston guards, such as Carson Edwards and Tremont Waters. He plays extremely hard, making him a troublesome defender on the ball. Sure, a lack of effort won’t be an issue for Pritchard, but according to a West Lane, Oregon native, he’s still learning to adapt to that end of the floor.
“Defensively, it’s completely different,” said Pritchard. “So we have different calls. Different – how do we try to plan our defense in our system. It’s just choosing that on the spot and learning different tricks to get around the screens, to make the shots tougher and all that. Offensive, it will take some time for a second nature to come when they call a play and get into it.” We have only been training for one week, so our flow will get better and better and men will start to get it faster and faster. “
The comparisons to Edwards and the Waters are inevitable, but it’ll be tough not to sweat their point of view, even more so after the impressive Pritchard appearance. The Celtics’ backyard is a little crowded with Pritchard and Jeff Teague additions, but Edwards and Waters sure have the most to lose. Waters exceeded expectations last season as a two-way player, especially in the G League, and finds himself in the same role this year. On the other hand, Edwards struggled during his first professional campaign.
Building on a successful four-year career in Oregon, Pritchard has the experience a rookie can have, and that serves his interest (he’s two months older than Edwards for whoever wonders) With Kemba Walker willing to waste time early in the season, the Celtics team will be looking for Extra player of the ball to attack with calm and control in various short periods. If I had to guess, I’d say Pritchard was more likely to see a long-term increase in playtime than Edwards. It’s rare for Brad Stevens to put his confidence in the instant rotation of a junior, but Pritchard might make sense given his experience and size advantage over his peers. It’s not big by any means, but it’s bigger than Edwards Waters, and Boston’s will need some reliable depth in the backcourt.
Edwards struggled on Tuesday night as he did during the last season. He’s been a streaky shooter at Bordeaux, but he’s had issues with his shot at NBA level so far. Pritchard should have had an easier time doing this, especially with the help of his impressive handle. His view as head ball coach is simply more attractive than Edwards.
Edwards and Waters are two players still trying to find their groove at the NBA level after rookie seasons. They have had success in the G League but are currently sitting in this uncomfortable medium. This is a tough place, but both players are in somewhat of a luxury position after just one season – it’s not like they’re stuck without a role after four years in the NBA. However, the addition of Pritchard did not help with their cases. If I were, Edwards, more than Waters, I was starting to feel hot the moment Pritchard’s name was called on Cloud Night. This will get worse if it continues to have an effect.
“For me, I’ve been excited to be out here since early March since I played a match,” said Pritchard. “So, de-stress, run up and down on the ground, just kind of feeling things again. It was great to get back here and there is no such thing as a real game environment.”
we’ve got Long Way to go, but Tuesday was a good start for Pritchard’s career in the NBA. But for Edwards, that just means the extra pressure.
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