The Ringer’s latest player rankings for the upcoming NBA season revealed that the Boston Celtics hold six in the Association’s top 100; tied for the most in the league. The six players who propelled the Celtics to that No. 1 spot are Jayson Tatum (5), Jaylen Brown (22), Jrue Holiday (37), Derrick White (56), Kristaps Porzingis (59), and Al Horford (82).
Two teams currently share the throne with the Celtics: the Golden State Warriors and Portland Trailblazers — who coincidentally make the list thanks to Robert Williams III and Malcolm Brogdon, who were recently acquired from the Cs in the Jrue Holiday trade.
This time next year, it’s likely that Tatum, Brown, Holiday, White, and Porzingis will remain in the top 100 players. Four of those players are currently under the age of 30, and Holiday, 34, hasn’t shown signs of any major regression that would cause him to completely drop off the list. However, for Al Horford, who is 37 and already in the back half of the list, it wouldn’t be a shock if he weren’t on the list next season. That is in no way a slight in Horford’s ability, and he still plays a crucial role for the Celtics.
If Horford does drop off the list, there is one Celtics player who is in the perfect position to take his place: Payton Pritchard.
Payton Pritchard will be the next Boston Celtics player to be a top-100 regular
Entering the offseason, when the Celtics were rumored to be moving on from a guard due to a log jam at the position, many thought it would be Pritchard. He had expressed wanting to play for a team where he could contribute more, and his role was already diminishing in Boston. All signs pointed toward Pritchard finding a new home.
A series of events ended up changing those plants.
Porzingis became available for trade, leading to the loss of Marcus Smart. Then the Milwaukee Bucks make a blockbuster trade for Damian Lillard, which sends Holiday to the Blazers, where he is immediately prepared to be traded again. Finally, the Boston Celtics swooped in and acquired Holiday, which cost them another guard, Malcolm Brogdon. Suddenly, the Celtics are left with Derrick White, Jrue Holiday, and, of course, Payton Pritchard.
The Cs organization loves Pritchard, and they showed this by signing him to a 4-year, $30 million extension. It was a nice deal for someone who played only 13.2 minutes per game and averaged 5.6 points per game last season, both of which were the lowest of his three-year career. Pritchard will now be getting more minutes than he has ever gotten this coming season, giving him the perfect chance to showcase his abilities.
So far in the preseason, Pritchard has also done nothing but impress. In the Celtics’ first three preseason games, Pritchard led the team in scoring, dropping 26, 21, and 17 points. Preseason or not, he is giving the organization a reason to trust him with an increase in minutes.
Pritchard also gives the Celtics a different feel when compared to White and Holiday; who are two of the best defensive guards in the entire NBA. While both are, of course, capable offensive players, it’s not the first thing you think of when they enter your mind. Pritchard, on the other hand, is the opposite.
While his lack of size makes him more of a liability on defense, Pritchard makes up for it on offense. He is a career 40% three-point shooter, and he’s able to knock them down off the dribble or spotting up, which can create a more open floor than you might see with White or Holiday.
Pritchard will never be under any crazy pressure to perform day in and day out due to all the talent around him. His job, on the surface, is pretty simple: be the scoring threat off the bench that Boston Celtics teams of the past have missed.
With the extra opportunity coming his way, Pritchard has the perfect chance to crack into The Ringers Top 100 NBA players by the time next season comes around.