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Pritchard has the offensive game, but will his defense limit his upside?

Over the coming weeks here at CelticsBlog, we’re going to a run a series we’re calling Scout’s View. Each edition of Scout’s View will focus on a different player. CelticsBlog talked to eight current and former NBA scouts to get their opinions on various Boston players. Included will be quotes from scouts on those players’ offensive and defensive skills. As well as some final, overall thoughts on the player. Next up in the series is Payton Pritchard

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Offense

Eastern Conference Scout 1: “My immediate thought is his range is great. He’s got that (Stephen) Curry, (Damian) Lillard range. The difference that makes those guys impossible to guard is that they can do it off the dribble. Can (Payton) Pritchard get there? Even if he doesn’t, that ability to space that deep is huge. It pulls someone away from the rest of the scheme and from being a helper.

“The next thing I look at is his off-the-dribble game. He needs to develop a good pullup jumper. Guys his size have to have that. Hopefully he learned from Kemba (Walker), because Kemba has one of the best pullups in the game. Pritchard is already strong going to the hoop. He’s deceptively strong in his shoulders and does a nice job creating space.

“Lastly, can be a playmaker, or is he really a small two? I think Boston thinks he’s the second right now, because they signed (Dennis) Schroder in the backcourt with him. But that’s fine. He’ll develop that part of his game while being a shooter and scorer.”

Eastern Conference Scout 2: “I hope he can be a real point guard. If not, he’s got to shoot it even better to be a Seth Curry type. Guys his size have to hit mid-to-high-40s from three if they aren’t point guards. But I think (Payton) Pritchard is already a better ballhandler than Seth Curry is. And he showed signs as a passer.

“I wish they hadn’t signed (Dennis) Schroder and just let this kid run the second unit. I get why they signed Schroder, that was too good to pass up, but it’s a year where Pritchard is going to be off the ball a lot again. We might not know if he can run pick-and-roll until Year 3. That’s tough.”

Former Scout 1: “I don’t want to be the guy making the cheap, easy “white guy” comp here, but he was quicker than I thought and he’s tough and scrappy. There was a play in an early-season game where he went inside, stole an offensive rebound from a big and got a putback and we all said ‘OK! That’s something you can work with.’

“I love his shooting, of course. He’s got that deep range. He can finish inside, so you can’t just press up. If he finds a pullup jumper, he’ll be a double-digit scorer. That leaves the passing game. He’s got a scorer’s mentality. He had three times as many shot-attempts as assists as a senior at Oregon. I’m not sure he’s a real point guard.”

Independent Analyst: “For a guy picked in the 20s, he was a pleasant surprise. I was confused by the selection at first, but Danny Ainge knows how to pick guards. He’s got a good track record there and Payton Pritchard is the next hit.

“When you can shoot it the way he does, with confidence and range, you can play in the league forever. He’ll be limited defensively forever. That’s just part of being a six-foot guard (Note: Pritchard is listed at 6’1’’). But if he can be an annoying defender, that will go a long way. He’s a guy that needs to soak up everything he can from Marcus Smart.”

Eastern Conference Scout 3: “I want to see him become a better passer. If he can, he can start for around 15-20 teams. He’ll be a top-15-20 point guard if he’s a playmaker. He shot 64% at the rim and 41% from behind the arc. That’s pretty ridiculous stuff for a rookie.

“Since this is the offense part, I’d have him run a million pick-and-rolls in camp, but only to look for passes. He’s already got the scoring down. And his ballhandling is already top-end stuff. Then, I’d make him take a million pullup jumpers. Free throw line and back. Really stretch that off-the-dribble range on his jumper.”

Western Conference Scout 1: “As much as I don’t love (Aaron) Nesmith, I love this kid. He’s tough. He’s a ball-buster. He’s like T.J. McConnell, except he can, and does, shoot. I don’t know if he’s ever a starter, because I don’t think he’ll defend or pass enough. But you can give him 25 minutes a night off your bench and you’ll be set for years with a backup guard.”

Western Conference Scout 2: “His best attribute is that he fits in perfectly with (Jayson) Tatum and (Jaylen) Brown. Those guys can’t be with a ball-dominant lead guard. They have to play with a guy who can space the floor and doesn’t need the ball. Someone like Seth Curry. Just make open ones. Pritchard can do that. Plus, he can do just enough off the bounce that defenses have to account for him. In that part of the game too.”

Former Scout 2: “I think we’re all getting a little excited here. 84% of his three-pointers were assisted. That’s fine, but can he create somewhere around 25% off the dribble? If so, then we have a guy who will be great. Also, two assists per game? (Note: Pritchard averaged 1.8 assists per game as a rookie) C’mon man. That’s not good enough. If you can’t run pick-and-roll at his size, you better hit 50% from deep or you aren’t playing.”

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Defense

Eastern Conference Scout 1: “I wasn’t sure what to expect. The PAC-12 isn’t exactly a defensive league. And Oregon isn’t a defensive powerhouse either. But he’s competitive. He’s tough. He’s got really quick feet, but he’s using them on offense vs defense. No reason he can’t draw 15-20 charges a season. Just watch how (Marcus) Smart does it.”

Former Scout 1: “He’s small. He’s got a strong upper body and good shoulder, so he doesn’t get pushed off the ball too easily. But he’s too short, and doesn’t have long arms, so he’s not contesting jumpers. He’s got to beat guys to the spot. If he’s got a bigger guard, or someone like Kyrie (Irving) who gets up on his jumper, he’s toast. The key for (Payton) Pritchard is to beat them to that spot and force them to shoot from where they don’t want to.”

Former Scout 2: “I want to see him play like T.J. McConnell on defense. Really annoy the (expletive deleted) out of guys. Like, I want someone to want to take a swing at him by the second half because he’s just always there. The best thing for Payton Pritchard is to watch Marcus Smart every day and then do what he does. Now, Smart is a brick (expletive deleted)-house and you can’t move him. He’s so damn strong. Pritchard won’t be that, but no reason he can battle guys and annoy them into fouls.”

Western Conference Scout 1: “Just like (Aaron) Nesmith, Brad (Stevens) did a good job protecting him. Barely ever went against top-tier starting point guards. And when he did, that was usually (Marcus) Smart’s assignment. I don’t know if he can start because of that. But he’s competitive enough defensively that he won’t kill you off the bench.”

Eastern Conference Scout 2: “If Boston is committed to this switch-everything scheme, look for who (Payton) Pritchard plays with. I don’t know how you build a good defense with him and (Dennis) Schroder on the floor together. Against other backups, it’s fine. But come playoff time, that’s around five minutes a game. One of them has to hold their own on switches. I will say, I trust Pritchard to do that better than I trust Schroder to do it.”

Western Conference Scout 2: “I like how he gets on the boards for a small guard. Danny (Ainge) has always found guards who can rebound. This kid has that knack. And that helps because it’s lets the other guys get up the floor and with other guards first back, if (Payton) Pritchard figures out the passing, he’ll hit them for early offense.

“On ball, he should be better. He’s too quick to let guys get by him as easily as he did. But that’s the NBA for you. One step and you’re toast. Let’s see him improve there before we pencil him as anything more than a backup.”

Eastern Conference Scout 3: “Put Payton Pritchard in Marcus Smart school. Battle, fight, scrap. Piss guys off. You might catch an elbow, but that just means you did your job. If he won’t or can’t do that, he’ll never defend enough to be a regular starter. If he will, then this kid is a starting-level point guard.”

Independent Analyst: “I like that he’s a competitive guy, but that showed up way more on offense than defense as a rookie. Right now, he’s a guy whose best defense is his offense. That’s fine as a rookie, but it’s Year 2. Time to step up.

“Here’s the other thing: To play for Ime Udoka, he’ll have to defend. Dennis Schroder isn’t a good defender, but he’s at least figured out how to give enough effort on that end to play. Boston has a bunch of other guards with more size than Payton Pritchard has. The shooting is awesome, but Udoka won’t have room for non-defending specialists in his rotation.”

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Overall Thoughts

Eastern Conference Scout 1: “He can play with (Jayson) Tatum and (Jaylen) Brown. That’s probably his biggest strength. (Marcus) Smart is going to miss 20-30 games, right? I bet (Payton) Pritchard is the starter when that happens instead of (Dennis) Schroder. Let Schroder do his scoring thing on the second unit. If Pritchard defends enough, his range off-ball is great with the starters.”

Eastern Conference Scout 2: “I’d take him as our backup point guard right now. I think he can be a point guard and not just a shooter. We just haven’t seen it yet. He gets downhill and he’s strong enough to make plays in the paint. For Boston, it’s a little messy. They have a lot of ballhandlers. So, he’s probably going to be a third or fourth creator this year, but a knockdown outside shooter. And that’s going to have to be enough for now.”

Eastern Conference Scout 3: “If he could pass better, he’d be a starting point guard and in the top-half of the league. That’s how good he is as a shooter. Guys who shoot it that well, you can overlook the defensive issues, as long as they at least try. If he starts making pullups and can run pick-and-roll, I bet Boston trades him in a package for a really great player. Because that other team will put him in as their starter.”

Western Conference Scout 1: “He’s kind of like Aaron Nesmith in a way. He can shoot. The Celtics needs shooting. So, (Payton) Pritchard will play and play a lot. And I’m lot more confident in Pritchard doing his thing than I am in Nesmith.”

Western Conference Scout 2: “25 minutes a night off the bench of good shooting and good fit with the stars. That’s perfect. Boston needs that and he can do it today. I also like his fit with (Dennis) Schroder, because he’ll open the floor for Schroder to drive it. And Schroder won’t feel threatened that the kid is taking his touches away.”

Former Scout 1: “If he defends better, he’ll be a starter eventually. I don’t think that happens though. I think he’s a career backup, and that’s OK! Some guys make good, long careers out of being really good backups. He’s also a smart kid who knows his job is make shots and play off the stars in Boston. No reason to push for more. But, boy, do I wish he’d defend more. Then he could be special.”

Former Scout 2: “I brought up T.J. McConnell earlier. He just got $40 million this summer. (Note: McConnell signed for $29.3 million in guaranteed salary) McConnell can’t and doesn’t shoot. If Pritchard can defend just a little more, he’ll get $10 million a year because everyone pays more of offense. But he has to defend more. The playmaking might come, or it might not. But that shooting and scoring, that’s real.”

Independent Analyst: “I think he’ll play at least 20-25 minutes per game off the bench, primarily. If Josh Richardson struggles again, I think Payton Pritchard starts and Marcus Smarts moves over to the wing. He’s a better fit with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown than Dennis Schroder is. Let Schroder dominate the ball on the second unit. He’ll keep Boston in games in that role.

“As an aside, I thought Brad Stevens should have moved Pritchard into the starting five and brought Kemba Walker off the bench. That’s kind of where I think Ime Udoka might settle this year. But Josh Richardson will get the first crack at things, because he’s bigger and defends better. Eventually, Udoka will realize he needs more shooting to open games. Then Pritchard will get the call.”

Celtics Blog https://www.celticsblog.com/2021/9/14/22673734/scouts-view-payton-pritchard-boston-celtics