Boston Celtics rookie guard Payton Pritchard is garnering national attention with the resumption of his outstanding play in his inaugural campaign, particularly after nailing a career-high six 3-pointers in Thursday’s win over the Toronto Raptors, ESPN’s Tim Bontemps covering the Oregon product in his own feature.
The former 26th overall pick has quickly earned the trust of head coach Brad Stevens to become a critical part of the team’s early rotation, and has proven to be a reliable source of offense off the bench ahead of teammate Aaron Nesmith, selected considerably ahead of him at 14th overall in the same draft.
“Pritchard … is now clearly the team’s sixth man,” observes Bontemps.
He has played in every game when healthy this season — and for more than 10 minutes in every game but the one in which he suffered an MCL sprain against the Philadelphia 76ers on Jan. 22,” he adds.
“Even with those missed games, he has made more 3-pointers than all but Tatum and Brown on the Celtics this season, while his 46.9% clip from behind the arc has him second only to Memphis’ Desmond Bane (48.2%) among rookies taking at least three triples a game, and 10th among all players who have taken that many per game this season.”
It seems that Ainge taking a player with the ability to shoot already instilled in his game has aid off for the Celtics president in a big way, and the jury is still out on Nesmith as well.
While fans should temper their excitement with defensive limitations and inexperience of the West Linn native’s game, Pritchard’s promising start has helped keep the integrity of an ambitious Boston squad more or less in focus in a season it would be easy to lose focus and fall apart.
And while this team has a long way yet to go in terms of health, depth and discipline to be the true contender is has designs of becoming, having a player like Pritchard on the roster certainly helps grease the track towards getting there.
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