Payton Pritchard Is Legitimately Playing Like He's Out For Blood This Season And It's Been Glorious To Watch

Sarah Stier. Getty Images.

With the top 6 all getting the night off due to this game being a B2B in the goddamn preseason, it was time for the Second Unit Celts to do their thing. The last time we saw this group was when they took the Bucks starters to OT in their own building before ultimately coming up short, and that's basically what this game was. The bench squad went toe to toe with the Knicks regulars for the majority of this game before ultimately running out of gas in the 4th quarter, and while disappointing that they didn't finish things off, it's a good time to remember that none of these games matter. That's the rule when you lose a fake game. I don't make them, I just follow them.

The preseason has three main goals for me.

1. The new stars build as much chemistry as possible ahead of the regular season

2. The bench sorts itself out in terms of hierarchy and hits the ground running

3. Everyone stays healthy

That's really it. While I prefer to see the Celts win these games, those things are what truly matter to me. When you enter a title or bust season, things are elevated a little bit, even preseason games. 

Through 2 games, I'd say we're on a good path with all three of those goals. We'll see how things look Wednesday against the Sixers in a game I imagine Embiid plays in (their home opener). But until then, we first must talk about what we saw last night. Let's dive in.

The Good

It all started with this tweet

When I first saw it I kind of laughed. I loved the mentality, but like, can you be out for blood playing 15-20 minutes a game? Maybe other players can't, but after two games of utter dominance, I'm starting to think Sam Hauser was onto something when it comes to Payton Pritchard

He really is playing like he's out for blood


26 points and 6 3PM in the opener and 21/3/5 on 7-15 shooting with 4 3PM again last night. Has there been a player who made his new extension look like an immediate steal like Pritchard has? My word. What was a $30M deal probably should have been $30M per year based on what we're seeing from him in these games. This is like Pro Am Payton Pritchard only against real NBA players. 

Given what he had to deal with last season, I can't help but find myself happy for the guy. It has to take a huge amount of mental toughness to stay locked in like this after you go from playing legit minutes in the NBA Finals one year to then getting DNP-CDs the next season only to then bounce back in 2023-24 like this. That alone makes you root for Pritchard. 

In terms of the actual basketball, we all knew he could shoot. But for him to make an on ball impact in his minutes, he had to show progression in executing in the second level. Watch Payton get into the paint now compared to previous years. He's finishing at the rim, he's creating for others. It may have taken 3 years to get here, but so far he's been noticeably different in this area, which is a big deal for him. 

We already knew his value as an off ball player. His range and C&S ability are as elite as they come. But to take that next step as a point guard he needed to round out his game, and so far that's exactly what we're seeing.

- Last night was also the debut of new play by play guy Drew Carter. I cannot imagine taking this job given who you're following, not to mention getting it over the guy who most people thought would get the nod who is also a Celtics broadcasting legend himself. 

Overall? Not a bad debut from Drew. In fact, I'd even say it was pretty good. I know if it were me I would be shitting myself on television so who am I to judge, but there are really only a few things I care about when it comes to the play by play. Do you have an annoying voice and do you know when not to talk and let the game speak for itself?

Last night was really the first time I heard Carter call a game, and I didn't hate his voice at all. It's sort of a big game voice if that makes any sense? I also didn't think he overtalked which is really the most important thing. Not only that, I think I'm in on Pritching Hour

It's not quite Gorman's "He takes it…..MAKES IT!" or "GOT IT!", but it's a start.

I would advise everyone to treat this new move with patience. It's a lot like the roster. It could be better, it could be worse, but it's still way too new to know right now. Let's see how it sounds/feels in like a month. We were just so used to Gorman and then Grande, the newness is just a little weird right now. That's no different from the Celts roster with their new guys.

- If preseason is all about intrigue and finding diamonds in the rough, consider me intrigued when it comes to Dalano Banton. I know he's super inconsistent and can't really shoot which has been an issue for him in the past, but like..look at this


A 6'7 point guard who gets to the rim with this type of ease is something I am very interested in. Looking at the bench, there isn't really a backup creator outside of JD, and he's not ready for real NBA minutes right now. Pritchard is more of a shooter/scorer than a creator, which is where Banton slides in. He's playing for his NBA life considering he's on a nonguaranteed deal right now, and performances like this certainly help him make his case to make the actual roster.

20 points on 8-19 shooting (1-5) with only 1 TO in his 30 minutes is nothing to sneeze at, especially because a lot of those drives and finishes came over the Knicks starters. If we're talking about a 13-15th spot on the roster, I don't hate the idea of having a backup point guard with good size/court vision in the mix. The shooting is gross and there can be a bit of tunnel vision offensively at times, but if he's going to be able to get to the rim with ease like this I'm not going to give a shit about that.

- When we saw Brad never misses, it's because he goes out and finds insane value. Maybe that's Sam Hauser on under $2M a year. Maybe that's Payton Pritchard at under $8M a year. And based on last night, maybe it's also Svi on a league minimum deal

Uhhhhhhhh hello.

I knew Svi could shoot and that he showed flashes as a playmaker to end last season with the Hornets, but the leaping ability shocked me. I'll tell you this, Svi has definitely outplayed Hauser offensively so far this preseason and I could envision a lineup where he shares the floor with Tatum. I'm intrigued by him being more than just a spot up shooter, but the defense definitely still needs work. This is where I'd still give Hauser the edge, and as we know defense is what gets you on the floor consistently. 

Is it crazy to think that if Svi continues to play like this, he could get up to around the 10th/11th guy off the bench? I don't think so. His size, shooting, and playmaking will probably look better playing next to the stars in limited minutes, so as long as he can just be a serviceable defender (like Hauser) I think there's a role here for him. 


- You can already tell why the Cavs loved Lamar Stevens and why he started all those games for them. He's a beast. Athletic as hell, strong as hell, he was brought here to bring the team toughness, energy, and OREB and that's exactly what we're getting so far. This entire sequence basically sums up Brad's vision

You can also see why the Cavs felt they needed to replace him on the wing. The outside shooting is just not there. Given his role that shouldn't be too much of an issue, but it is an issue. At the very least he needs to make his open corner threes, and at 1-5 last night we didn't really see it. 

- I'd say the exact same thing when it comes to Oshae Brissett. I love how aggresive he is, I love how much energy he plays with, I love him in transition, I love how the Celts finally have a player who knows and understands how to cut off ball

But like Stevens, I'm a bit nervous about the outside shot. I feel like Brissett is going to be the first to get the Grant minutes, and that role requires you to be consistent from deep. One of the reasons Grant was impactful was because he was automatic from the corners. Brissett had a couple last night, including one that was kind of big in the 4th quarter, and he missed them all. 

I'm not saying Brissett has to be a 40% shooter like Grant, let's have some perspective. I'm just saying the Celts bench lost some very consistent outside shooting and so far the 3 wings who are slated to fill those minutes haven't shot the ball well from deep at all so far this preseason. To not be even slightly concerned with that is just lying to yourself.

- As far as I'm concerned the 3rd string center battle is wide open and I didn't hate what we saw from Neemias Queta. For a team that desperately needs OREB, he did have 4 in his 13 minutes. He's like a Rob-Lite on the offensive glass. Considering Luke Kornet is basically allergic to rebounding, it wouldn't shock me if Queta actually plays when he's up with the real team from Maine.


The Bad

- For all this talk about defense, I'm still waiting to see it. 57 points allowed in the first half of the opener, another 57 points in the first half last night, I watch this team with both the top 6 and without the top 6 and I don't see anything too different from last season. It's early and maybe they're ramping up, but I'm still seeing teams score with ease to start these games and that's a little concerning. 

- Part of that of course is figuring out how to defend without fouling, something that was not the case in this game. The Celts couldn't stop fouling to the point of a 29-17 difference. That's outrageous. Hard to win when you're undermanned when you are losing the FT battle 33-19, and it's also not really that surprising when your deep bench is getting all of the minutes. Those guys are going to foul. 

- Pretty brutal showing from Wenyen Gabriel in his 9 minutes. Missed all his shots (0-3), had 4 fouls, and he just looked way too sped up/playing out of control. Comparing his night to Quetas it wasn't even particularly close, so it wouldn't shock me if that's a spot Brad keeps open.

- Can't win on the road against NBA starters when you turn it over 17 times. That's even true when the top 6 play, and I'm not sure what the total was in terms of travel calls when someone pump faked, but the Celts couldn't stop doing it. Maybe that is just a ref thing and they'll stop caring about that in a month, but it felt like every time a Celtic made that move they were called for a travel. Figure that shit out.

- While he had a few nice moments defensively and in transition, it's clear that Jordan Walsh probably isn't going to be playing a whole lot this year with the big club. This is what I was trying to do when I said keep your expectations on earth. He's a 2nd round pick with a ton of potential who also happens to be very raw. Year 1 is developmental for him, this is not a Jayson Tatum ready Day 1 type of situation here.

It's clear Brissett/Stevens/Hauser are the main backup wings, and it wouldn't shock me if we saw Svi even play more. Again this is fine, but it was a nice reminder to just pump the brakes a little bit and let Walsh develop.

The Ugly

- Sam Hauser needs to start making some shots here soon. Just 2-15 from deep to start the preseason, that's not anywhere close to good enough. The defense has been fine and all that, but he's on the floor to make threes. 0-6 in the opener and 2-9 last night, he's not even close right now.

My guess is that changes once he gets into his normal spot up role and gets into a rhythm, but so far it's been pretty gross.

- I am legit concerned about the rebounding. It stunk with the top 6 and was equally as horrific last night. We've seen nothing through two games that suggests it won't be a problem, and as we saw in the playoffs last year when this team is unable to finish defensive possessions cleanly, bad things happen.

Kornet just doesn't rebound. He's a 7fter who plays like he's 4'11. When even Scal is getting on you for rebounding, it's an issue.To finish with just 2 rebounds in nearly 20 minutes is kind of pathetic.

It felt like the Knicks got whatever they wanted on the offensive glass which was concerning considering the Sixers had just gotten whatever they wanted on the offensive glass. Mitchell Robinson manhandled every Celts big that he was up against, and it becomes more glaring by the game how much of an issue this is going to be during the season. It's not as if Al or KP are huge rebound guys themselves, so I'm not sure what the solve is outside of everyone just making a collective effort to hit the glass.

My hope is that we at least see the starters back for a little bit on Wednesday and then maybe again on the 17th against the Knicks at home. My guess is everyone sits again for the finale on the 19th vs CHA, and then the real thing will finally be here. There's a lot to figure out until then, but man does it feel great to have Celts basketball back in our lives again.