There aren’t many late first-round picks in the NBA who make an immediate impact in their rookie season. Payton Pritchard of the Boston Celtics might be an exception. The 6-foot-1 point guard out of Oregon is quickly finding his way into the hearts of Celtics fans.
Who is Payton Pritchard?
Payton Pritchard might turn out to be the steal of the 2020 NBA draft. Pritchard is a rare four-year college player who played point guard at Oregon. As a freshman, he averaged 7.4 points per game, making an impact in his first year with the Ducks.
As a sophomore, he lit up DePaul with what was then a career-high 29 points, while adding eight assists and six rebounds. In his junior year, he helped guide Oregon to a Sweet 16 appearance in the NCAA tourney. By his senior year, Pritchard was one of the best players in college basketball.
In his final season with the Ducks, he became the school’s all-time leader in assists. Despite being the playmaker, he also showed he could score as he averaged 20.5 points per game. He had a career-best 38 points in an overtime victory against Arizona. He was named Pac-12 Player of the Year.
The Boston Celtics select Pritchard in the first round
Payton Pritchard was taken in the first round of the 2020 NBA draft. He was selected with the 26th overall pick by the Boston Celtics. While he was a first-rounder, he wasn’t Boston’s first pick. The Celtics selected Vanderbilt’s Aaron Nesmith with the 14th pick.
Pritchard has made much more of an impact than Nesmith so far this year for the Celtics. With point guard Kemba Walker out and expected to miss at least the first month of the season, Pritchard has seen his playing time increase. Through nine games, Pritchard is averaging 22.9 minutes per game.
He’s also making the most of those minutes. Pritchard is averaging 8.3 points and 3.2 assists per game. Earlier this week, Pritchard dropped 23 points in a 126-114 win over the Toronto Raptors.
Pritchard quickly becoming a Boston Celtics fan favorite
Not only is All-Star point guard Kemba Walker out for the Boston Celtics, but veteran backup Jeff Teague has also been out recently. Pritchard hasn’t been shy about capitalizing on his opportunity. Against the Miami Heat, he hit a put-back with less than a second remaining to give the Celtics the victory. He’s winning both teammates and fans over with his gritty style of play.
“Payton came in with the confidence,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown after a recent win over the Indiana Pacers, according to NBC Sports. “Definitely needed a spark coming off the bench, and Payton was everything and more for us tonight. We’re going to need more guys to continue to step up, but excellent job from Payton Pritchard, man. The kid can play, and we’re looking forward to him and other guys stepping up as well in the future.”
Pritchard has been asked to help hold down the fort as Walker, and now Teague, gets healthy. He’s done a whole lot more than that. It may be difficult to get the rookie off the court.