‘Just adds another layer to our team’: Payton Pritchard’s given the Celtics exactly what they’ve needed lately

Pritchard's been making 3-pointers at an extremely efficient rate as of late, but he's also working off the ball, too.

Payton Pritchard's been shooting the way Celtics fans have hoped as of late. (AP Photo/Randall Benton)

When the Celtics made a pair of trades at February’s trade deadline, the common sentiment around the basketball world was that the moves were good, but they didn’t address their shooting need.

It turns out they might not have needed to inquire from the outside to find the sharpshooter they’re looking for. Second-year guard Payton Pritchard’s given Boston exactly what it’s needed in the shooting department as of late.

In the 11 games since the All-Star break, Pritchard’s shot 50 percent from the field on six attempts per game and 44.7 percent from 3-point range on 4.3 attempts per game. By mostly shooting 3-pointers and making them at a very efficient rate, Pritchard’s true shooting percentage during that stretch is an impressive 66.5 percent, which would rank first among all guards in the league this season.


Friday night was just another recent example of Pritchard’s ability to make 3s at a high clip. He made all of five his shots, including four 3-pointers, to give him 14 points in the Celtics’ 126-97 win over the Kings.

With his deep shot falling again Friday night, Pritchard’s performing like the player Celtics fans hoped he would be after a solid rookie season – in which he shot 41.1 percent from deep – after going 36.4 percent from deep in the first three-plus months of the season. He also shot just 37.8 percent from the field prior to the All-Star break.

“My shot has always been there,” Pritchard said. “Anybody in practice or anything knows that. A lot of times with people shooting, it just takes time to get into the flow back into things.”

A reason for Pritchard’s improved shooting could be that he’s getting more minutes. In the first few months of the season, Pritchard had infrequent minutes, going from in the regular rotation to only seeing minutes in garbage time to being a “DNP – coach’s decision.”

But when the Celtics traded Dennis Schroder, it allowed Pritchard to slot in as one of the backup guards in coach Ime Udoka’s regular eight-man rotation. Since the All-Star break, Pritchard’s averaged 8.1 points and 2.4 assists in 16.5 minutes per game.


Pritchard believes the increase in playing time is a reason for his improved play.

“People want to look at stats and numbers but like at the very beginning of the year, sometimes I’m playing at the very end of games and different minutes,” Pritchard said. “Like I said before, my job is to just come in and be ready – knock down shots and play hard defense, make plays. Be a winning player. For me, once that trade deadline happened, my mindset was to just come in and compete and keep earning more trust from the coaches.”

Despite being listed as a point guard and standing at just 6-foot-1, the Celtics have deployed Pritchard a lot as someone that works off the ball. For instance, the Celtics’ best lineup in Friday’s saw Pritchard play off the ball with Jayson Tatum and Derrick White working as the primary ball handlers alongside Daniel Theis and Grant Williams. That lineup outscored the Kings by 21 points in a little under 13 minutes of play.

Even though he still ended the game with eight assists, Pritchard said he’s ready to play wherever he’s asked to play on the court.

“At the end of the day, I’m a basketball player. So, you could put me anywhere on the court and I’m going to try and make something happen,” Pritchard said. “I think, you know, in the NBA you want to be able to play multiple positions. So, for me, being able to off the ball with Jaylen [Brown], Jayson, Marcus [Smart], and Derrick, and also with the ball. It’s a positionless league, so that’s what I’m trying to do.”


“I’ve done it a lot in my life,” Pritchard added on playing off the ball. “In college, I played with a lot of other good players so I learned how to play off the ball with them and have the ball. I definitely learned it a little bit more in the league because playing with Jayson and Jaylen, they’re superstars, and I’m trying to help them out.”

Overall, good things have happened for the Celtics with Pritchard on the court as of late. Since the trade deadline, Pritchard’s 17.4 net rating is tied for the second-best on the team among players who’ve played at least 10 games, trailing Daniel Theis and tied with Al Horford.

Udoka has also noticed what Pritchard’s brought to his squad recently.

“He’s obviously one of our best shooters,” Udoka said. “The trick for him is to play off the ball more and understand that we have Marcus, Jayson, Jaylen, and Derrick that can all create shots for him. And at times, he’s a great screener and popper and he mixes it up and we bring some smaller matchups into it. So, he’s done a great job of not just handling [the ball], but playing off the ball and then, like I said, being one of our best shooters. Guys are really looking for him. You can feel it. You can see it. They’re looking for him in transition.

“He just adds another layer to our team. The confidence part was always there for him, it was always just a matter of opportunity.”


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