As far as results go, preseason is and always has been nothing to read much into. The only worthwhile moments in these games are watching the players whose place on the roster is on the fence fight for their spots. Oddly enough, in the Boston Celtics case, that’s not much of a factor this time around.
Because the Celtics have 13 players signed full-time onto the roster, combined with the lack of bodies on their training camp roster, pending any surprises, this is likely the roster fans are seeing on opening night, which means Luke Kornet, Dalano Banton, Svi Mykahiliuk, and Lamar Stevens aren’t going anywhere. So there isn’t much to take away on that front.
However, even if preseason games are overall meaningless exhibitions, they can give glimpses of what teams like the Celtics will have in their arsenal, and after two games, it feels like they truly have an overabundance of firepower
Kristaps Porzingis showed exactly why Boston Celtics traded Marcus Smart for him
Is it crazy to suggest that the amount of caution in the cautious optimism surrounding the Celtics’ acquisition of Porzingis made the trade a little underrated? Porzingis may never shake his injury-prone reputation, but he showed exactly what the Celtics had envisioned when they acquired him in his preseason debut. The best way to describe Porzingis’ play would be to summarize it in two words: “Too easy.”
Porzingis showed the matchup problems he provides on the floor immediately. Leave him wide open for three, he’ll make you pay. Leave him open for an iso post-up with no help, he’ll make you pay. Guard him up close enough on the perimeter to help the cutter go to the basket, he’ll make you pay. The best part was that he looked as good as he did primarily because of how much attention was focused on Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
There were some warts, but that’s to be expected. Take this play that ended in a turnover.
Once Holiday got it to Porzingis, he should have taken Reed to the cup instead of passing it back out to Derrick White because Porzingis has a legit postgame now, which is something not many know. During the 2022-23 season, Porzingis was nearly the 90th percentile in post-ups per NBA.com, having 1.18 PPP, an effective field goal percentage of 58%, and a shooting foul frequency of 20.9%. All while having a post-up frequency of 16.6%. Even if it’s a new wrinkle, he’s dependable.
Getting back to the play itself, Porzingis is still one of the new kids on the block, and he clearly doesn’t want to step on anyone’s toes, so he deserves a pass for trying to be a good teammate. While Porzingis certainly stood out a lot more than the other new kid on the block, Jrue Holiday, that doesn’t mean Jrue didn’t show Celtics fans what may be yet to come.
Jrue Holiday and Derrick White are going to be a problem together in Boston Celtics backcourt
Holiday didn’t exactly have the electric debut that Porzingis did, but he still showed exactly why the Celtics paid a good price to get him. All it took was a two-minute stretch for Holiday to demonstrate, with White’s help, exactly what he was going to do for Boston.
Even if it was just for a brief moment, those stretches prove why you pair up the likes of Holiday and White together. Whether the opponent drives to the basket or tries to thread the needle in the halfcourt, they’ll poke and prod every step of the way to make life as difficult as possible. Are they a little undersized? Sure, but having two of the NBA’s All-Defense recipients in the same backcourt should make the Celtics’ defense. Of course, it’s not like the Celtics nor their fans didn’t already know that before Holiday even got there.
That also brings up the conundrum of who exactly will round out the Celtics starting five. Will they go all big with Al Horford next to Porzingis, or will they go small-ball with White and Holiday? While that could pose a problem, it’s a good problem to have.
Payton Pritchard is playing like he has something to prove
Payton Pritchard’s pitch-perfect preseason performances primarily portray a plucky player who’s persevered through previously precarious positions to persistently produce at a potent level as a professional playmaker… Okay, not really. Let’s be honest. Pritchard playing well is actually nothing new because the Celtics have seen him do that since his rookie season. They knew Pritchard could play.
However, while they knew Pritchard could shoot the rock and take some guys one-on-one, these preseason performances have also demonstrated some rather intriguing new wrinkles to his game. To be fair, Pritchard’s never shown these aspects to his game, but part of that might be because the Celtics never asked him to.
Finishing around the rim? That’s new. Setting up teammates for easy baskets? Also new. Drawing contact for and-1s? Who is this guy, and what has he done with Payton Pritchard? All boomer movie references aside, no one questioned that Pritchard should have been a rotation player earlier, but if these newfound aspects of FastPP’s game are for real, then it’s not even in question who the Celtics’ seventh guy will be.
This also begs the question of whether Pritchard’s improved play factored into why the Boston Celtics felt comfortable eating into their guard depth this summer. After the trades they made, the Celtics are giving Pritchard the chance he’s waited for all along.
Because Pritchard has given them results before, the Boston Celtics should be optimistic that he can give them more.
Boston Celtics’ new reserves demonstrate why they were worth bringing aboard
Now this harks back to what was said earlier about preseason. It means next to nothing, so when someone who didn’t come in with many expectations has a standout performance, it more often than not means anything. Banton’s and Mykhailiuk’s performances in a hard-fought loss against the Knicks fit that bill.
Their performances likely won’t factor into what roles they’ll play in the regular season rotation – the Celtics’ seventh, eighth, and ninth guys are likely to be Pritchard, Sam Hauser, and Luke Kornet in that order until someone usurps them – but they show that they can bring something to the table if the Cs are ever shorthanded. Banton and Mykhailiuk proved in their own unique ways why every roster spot counts.
They may not necessarily be the most proven names, but roster versatility is always a plus, and they’ve shown that there is definitely potential from them in that department.
The Boston Celtics came into the preseason with the bar already set at contention. Even if they are 1-1 to start the preseason, it’s not hard to see why there’s a lot of excitement coming into this season, and Boston has only added to it.