What are some stories that don’t get talked about enough around the Boston Celtics?
Today’s Topic: What is an overlooked story or development that you think is not being talked about enough?
This could change tomorrow, but for now, the Celtics are giving Payton Pritchard the green light and the opportunity he’s been longing for. I think we all expected him to go somewhere else, right? Well, that hasn’t happened yet. Pritchard never wanted out of Boston; he just wanted minutes. Now, barring more moves, it looks like he’s getting them. Even if Malcolm Brogdon ends up starting the season healthy, realistically it can’t stay that way. Joe Mazzulla prefers to keep his rotation relatively tight, but at the moment it looks like Pritchard is part of it. He has risen to the occasion more often than not when given the opportunity and there is no reason to expect anything less. It will be interesting to see what he does if everything goes as it is. If it doesn’t, then maybe it wasn’t meant to be. As long as he’s playing somewhere, he’s fine.
Rob Williams. Full stop. He had his moments last year, but overall it wasn’t the Rob Williams we saw for about a 4-month stretch in the 2021-22 season where he elevated his game and temporarily turned the team into a verifiable juggernaut. Although Smart deservedly won the DPOY for that season, Rob also had an extremely worthy cause. If Rob can be THAT Rob again (even if it’s only for 60 games or so), the Celtics will be the best team in the league. Will Rob be healthy? Scary question for Celtics fans. But if he’s healthy – scary proposition for the rest of the league.
Derrick White had by far his best NBA season last year, and it looks like the Celtics took note and solidified him as the leader of the guard rotation. He’s earned it, but can he match the production with less depth at his position? Can White remain an All-Defense player after last year’s drain plan, and without Marcus Smart by his side? Is perimeter shooting here to stay or poised for regression? How does leading the offense change his role with Smart gone? I absolutely believe in White’s game, but he will also have to back up the standard he set last season.
Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images
Looking at the current roster, that’s the role Payton Pritchard needs to play on a consistent basis.
This time last year, I wrote about how Pritchard was in a tough spot with Boston’s surplus of skilled guards ahead of him on the depth chart. After the Marcus Smart-Kristaps Porzingis trade, that is no longer the case. Everyone assumed Pritchard being dealt was inevitable heading into the offseason, especially given how public he has been with those desires. However, his biggest gripe with the organization was a lack of playing time. Right now, that won’t be a problem for him next season.
Derrick White will almost certainly slide into the starting point guard role in Smart’s absence, with Malcolm Brogdon playing significant backcourt minutes when healthy. However, Pritchard is very clearly the third guard in Boston’s rotation right now, which means he should receive 10-20 minutes of playing time on a nightly basis.
This is the opportunity Payton has been hoping for. It is up to him to prove that he is capable of handling that type of workload.
Derrick White is handed the keys. There has been plenty of emotional reaction to the Marcus Smart trade, and rightfully so. Smart was the longest-tenured Celtic, the vocal leader both on and off the court, and a favorite among a large percentage of Boston fans.
Meanwhile, there hasn’t been much discussion about White becoming the point guard by default. He is certainly qualified to lead the team: last season he was one of just 10 NBA players to appear in 82 games; his 11.0 net rating was third best in the entire league (55 games or more); and his 76 blocks led all NBA guards and helped him earn All-Defense second team. When Smart was injured mid-season, White won Player of the Week honors, averaging 24.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 7.5 assists while shooting .522/.515/.900. Boston won all four games that week.
It seemed like the Celtics were a better team when White played than when he didn’t, but with Malcolm Brogdon also taking minutes in the backcourt, White was sometimes left out. For example, the Cs went to overtime in 11 games, and in five of them, White sat for the entire extra time. In another, he played just one second of OT. And in the one game that went to double overtime, White only played the final three minutes after Smart fouled out.
Those days are over now. With Smart gone, White will direct the offense and be counted on to deliver “winning plays.” We only need to think back to the end of Game 6 in Miami to know how skilled he is.
For me it has to be Jayson Tatum. A lot of attention is (correctly) going to Jaylen Brown and his supermax deal and new guy Kristaps Porzingis. But usually championship teams are driven by their best player. Tatum has made improvements every year in the league, some more noticeable than others. The final step for him may be his most difficult. Management.
That’s not to say he hasn’t been a leader in his own way over the years. This is not to say that he must look like a certain type of leader. But Marcus Smart is gone now, and all eyes will be on Tatum and Brown to set the tone their own way.
I think Tatum has Finals MVP potential, but he can’t do it alone, which means he has to lead.