Payton Pritchard holding things steady in increased role for Boston Celtics

Celtics guard play has been spectacular this year thanks to a strong starting duo. However, Payton Pritchard is seeing some of his most important minutes of his career, and he deserves them.

Boston Celtics v Houston Rockets
Boston Celtics v Houston Rockets / Alex Bierens de Haan/GettyImages
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How did we get here?

Payton Pritchard has had an interesting career on the Boston Celtics, especially when going back only a few months. The guard from Oregon was a good draft pick in 2020 but just last summer, entering his fourth year, he found himself in a precarious position. He felt he could contribute to a basketball team more than he was with the Boston Celtics. Pritchard averaged a career-low of 13.4 minutes per game last season which dropped to 5.7 in the playoffs. Thus, he requested a trade, as reported by the Athletic's Jay King and Jared Weiss per multiple sources last summer.

The request was understandable given what Pritchard was/is capable of. Unfortunately for him there just wasn't much room for him to see the floor given the guard depth of the roster at the time. It was reasonable for him to want more of an opportunity considering he was up for a contract extension nearing the end of his rookie deal.

Fast forward to the fall and a trade for Pritchard never happened. But the Celtics had a very busy off-season nonetheless, which worked in the guard's favor. Starting guard Marcus Smart was moved to acquire Kristaps Porzingis. First man off the bench and Sixth Man of the Year Malcolm Brogdon, who was also nearly traded for Porzingis, was moved to Portland for Jrue Holiday. The clouds parted for Pritchard as the depth chart now had one less backcourt player. Within a week of the Holiday trade the Celtics extended Pritchard, officially giving him both the paycheck and opportunity he wanted. The Celtics let him step up from that third to the second string.

So, half a season in, where do the Boston Celtics stand?

Pritchard, with his newfound opportunity, has averaged 7.9 points, and 3 assists on 21.2 minutes per game. While these aren't necessarily spectacular, they are all career highs. Also, keep in mind he is splitting those lead guard duties with either Holiday or Derrick White on the floor next to him nearly at all times. Overall, his net on/off differential is +1.3, and on the court the team is +11.1 per cleaningtheglass.com.

Clearly that plus 11.1 (97th percentile) isn't all due to Pritchard. He is sharing the backcourt with Holiday or White, and playing with star talent at all other positions. But, it is important to note that he is contributing. He is earning the minutes he has been given and has been a real piece to this outstanding Celtics team. Even defensively, an area he still struggles with due to his size, he has shown it isn't for lack of effort. He shows help appropriately and can even keep up with an attacking James Harden, forcing him to kick the ball out to the corner, as he did here.

Pritchard also does two things coaches historically care about, he doesn't turn the ball over and he can shoot. Even though his assists are at only 3 per game, he has a 5:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Only 6.5 percent of possessions does Pritchard turn the ball over per cleaningtheglass.com.

Shooting has always been one of Pritchard's strong suits. This year he is shooting at 40 percent from three and a respectable 61.2 percent within 4 feet of the hoop when filtering out garbage time.

Make the most of every opportunity

All things considered, Pritchard is by no means an All-Star, but he is a real contributor to this Boston Celtics team. He is steady out there and someone you can trust if you're the coach. His trade request came from a genuine place of wanting an opportunity to prove himself and now he he has. without ever having to leave Boston. He took the opportunity provided for him.

It goes to show that a team's off-season moves have a ripple effect through the entire team. The players coming in and out are of course the big coefficients to the equation but looking at how it can open things up for players on the margins, definitely shouldn't go unnoticed. Historically this has been a trend for the Boston Celtics. Marcus Smart had what might have been his best season right after Kemba Walker was traded, White is currently having his best year and might be an All-Star with Smart gone, and now Pritchard is finding a real groove as a second-unit point guard.