Chris Forsberg

Will USA Select Team stint help Payton Pritchard reassert himself?

An opportunity could be there for the taking for Payton Pritchard -- starting this summer.


Payton Pritchard is headed to Las Vegas next month as part of the 2023 USA Basketball men’s select team that will train for four days with the national squad.

For Pritchard, it’s a unique summer opportunity that will put him back in the USA Basketball pipeline and surround him with NBA talent in an otherwise quiet part of the basketball schedule. As part of the sessions, he’ll be tasked with defending the likes of Tyrese Hailburton, Jalen Brunson, and Austin Reaves in scrimmage work to get those players ready for the 2023 FIBA World Cup overseas.

The 25-year-old Pritchard will be the oldest NBA player on a select team highlighted by recent top draft picks (Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green, Chet Holmgren). But the Select Team also feels like a chance for Pritchard to start reasserting himself in the ramp to a season in which the Celtics might need to lean heavy on the fourth-year guard.

The departure of Marcus Smart, coupled with the injury rehabilitation of Malcolm Brogdon, could open a pathway for Pritchard to play the sort of minutes that haven’t existed in recent seasons. After a robust role in his rookie year, Pritchard’s playing time has decreased in each of the last two seasons, with the frustrated guard playing sparingly behind the troika of Smart, Brogdon, and Derrick White last year.

It’s hard to truly gauge Pritchard’s play last season. Cleaning the Glass data suggests that 93 of his already paltry 643 total minutes (11th highest on the team) came in trash time. In the other 550, Pritchard posted a +4.2 net rating, per CTG data, but Boston’s offensive rating in that span (113.2) lagged well behind the team’s season mark (117.3).

Pritchard didn’t hide his displeasure in his evaporated role, but the Celtics elected to carry him through the trade deadline. From February 15 through the playoffs, Pritchard had only one instance where he played meaningful minutes in consecutive games, and that was the final two regular-season games of the year when Boston rested key personnel.

Pritchard had a 16-game stretch from mid-January to mid-February where he played his most consistent minutes -- nearly 18 per game with one start -- but shot just 32.3 percent beyond the arc and 38.7 percent from the floor overall. He averaged 5.9 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 1.3 assists in that span.

The lack of consistent playing time, and the surplus of ball-handlers, has shifted Pritchard’s role since his arrival in Boston. Even though he more often slotted as a 2-guard in his first season, he had more opportunity to handle the ball and create opportunities off the dribble. The last two seasons, it has more often felt like he has to subsist on catch-and-shoot opportunities when the ball comes his way.

Celtics Talk: Inside Robert Williams' offseason workouts | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube

Pritchard's catch-and-shoot percentages dipped from 46.7 percent on all 3-pointers as a rookie to 38.2 percent last year, possibly reflecting more pressure to maximize limited floor time. Just under of 60 percent of his shots the last two seasons have come with two seconds of touch time or fewer.

For Pritchard to truly thrive, he likely needs to get back to having the freedom he did as a rookie. He has to be given a chance to show he can confidently direct the offense and diversify his offense. If Brogdon isn’t at full go to start the year due to an arm injury, there’s a hefty role waiting for Pritchard early in the 2023-24 season.

Confidence is rarely an issue with Pritchard. But restoring his on-court swagger starts at USA Basketball. Scoring 92 points in a Pro-Am is a fun summer headline. But showing you can compete with some of the best young players in the NBA is more likely to draw the attention of the Celtics’ coaching staff.

Can Pritchard show he can confidently direct an offense? Can he compete defensively despite giving up size to opponents? Can he remind Boston’s coaching staff of his ability to impact a game beyond catch-and-shooting chances? Vegas will at least give him a chance to start answering those questions.

The Celtics have decisions to make about Pritchard’s future and a big year looms. For Pritchard, he can start making an impression with the four-day visit to Vegas next month.

Contact Us