By: Henry Curi
The Boston Celtics have found their point guard position riddled with too many issues as of late. Kemba Walker is facing ongoing knee complications and signing a veteran like 32-year-old Jeff Teague holds no real security for success as his play keeps declining. But there’s a strong possibility that the franchise’s answer may lay in the hands of their two draft picks from the past couple of years in Carsen Edwards and Payton Pritchard.
Although only playing nine minutes per game last season for the Celtics, Edwards showed flashes of huge potential in his Purdue days. In the finals year of his collegiate career, the 5’11 sharpshooter averaged 24.3 points in 35 minutes of play. Edwards also took the national stage by storm with his breakthrough performance in his 2019 March Madness run. In this unbelievable individual showcase, he averaged 34.8 points per game which is tied for ninth-most in tournament history. Not only putting the team on his back but tremendously raising his draft stock as well.
His brilliant play transitioned well into the summer league. As the competition only got more intense, he’s proven to stay consistent as a main option on the offensive end. Edwards led the Celtics to a 4-1 record while averaging 19.4 points. Probably the most notable factor though is his absolute confidence presented on the court.
For a second-round draft pick, “Edwards certainly gave Celtics fans a glimpse of what he can offer right away,” locking up his four-year, $4.5 million contract before the start of the regular season in 2019 according to NBC Sports.
As his time to show the league’s best players what he’s made of kept nearing, he had no plans of slowing down. In a preseason match-up against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Edwards dropped a sizzling 30 point performance on nine made three-point field goals. This might’ve been his biggest statement to the NBA at the time that he could potentially be the biggest steal of his draft class.
Coach Overlooks Edwards’ True Ability
This could’ve been the case if head coach Brad Stevens put Edwards in the rotation more often. Instead, he was handed mainly garbage time minutes. Stevens put more trust in Brad Wanamaker as Kemba Walker’s backup point guard, giving him 19 minutes per game compared to Edwards’ nine. In those 19 minutes, the 30-year-old Wanamaker racked up only 6.9 points per game and dropped that to 4.9 points come playoff time. A situation where Edwards has proven to rise to the occasion instead of stagnating when it matters most.
It is a battle for minutes amongst point guards on the team aside from Walker. Regardless, this may be the season Edwards does get the full chance to prove his worth. Not only Boston’s desperate needs but to himself as well.
The Run-And-Gun Duck
Behind Edwards and his promising potential comes Pritchard. Yet another college star who left his own legacy at Oregon University. Through his four years as a Duck, the 26th pick of the 2020 draft only got noticeably better as the team’s floor general.
- 2016-2017: 7.4 PPG, 3.6 ASP, 39.3% FG
- 2017-2018: 14.5 PPG, 4.8 ASP, 44.7% FG
- 2018-2019: 12.9 PPG, 4.6 ASP, 41.8% FG
- 2019-2020: 20.5 PPG, 5.5 ASP, 46.8% FG
Aside from his numbers, he piled on the accolades to solidify himself as one of the most prolific names in college hoops during his time. Pritchard earned: 2x All-Pac-12, Pac-12 Tournament MVP, 2019-2020 Pac-12 Player of the Year, and more.
“I really, really enjoyed watching him play…,” stated Celtics GM Danny Ainge, “He’s just a fun player to watch. I love his competitiveness. His skills have really developed over the four years he was there and he carried a huge role…I think he’s gonna fit in with our culture and our fans are gonna fall in love with him.”
Ainge already shows high praise to the 22-year-old because of his play on the court. Especially the way he’s able to push the tempo. Something he thrives on along with his pure basketball IQ according to his major strengths by Hoop Intellect.
This is something the Celtics need. Someone who can push the pace and accelerate their teammates’ ability to make shots. Despite ranking fifth last season in offensive efficiency, the only Eastern Conference team they trailed in terms of possessions a team uses per game was the Milwaukee Bucks. Pritchard might just be the key to getting over this hump if they face the Bucks in the playoffs.
There would be times last season where Walker would be a liability in that aspect. His knee discomfort slowed him down as the starting point guard of the team. A decline in his ability to be a playmaker will reflect on the rest of the offense. Walker didn’t really have that explosive push-the-floor factor, but that’s the core of Pritchard’s game.
In an interview with ESPN’s Mike Schmitz, it was noted how “aggressive” Pritchard is in the open court and how he’s “not afraid of contact” when running a coast-to-coast fast-break alone. He himself knows just how much of a threat he can be pushing that all-important tempo.
“If I’m going full speed while guys are back-peddling,” stated Pritchard, “I’m confident in my handle and ability to change direction so quick[ly] that I don’t think they can change with me.”
Teammates Become Competitors for Celtics
Although having assurance in his own play, Pritchard’s transition to the league may be a difficult one. Not only for him but for the rest of his draft class as well. No summer league, a shortened training camp, and playing under COVID-19 circumstances may deter a smooth shift from college to the pros. But Ainge has faith in him to quickly become an asset to the rotation, despite having tough competition within his own roster to earn those minutes according to NBC Sports.
The Celtics are still trying to figure out their roster in such a time crunch. Regular season play starts in three weeks, but as their point guard situation has been weary at times, the front office may have to look no further with guys like Edwards and Pritchard on their side. Two young and hungry talents ready for the challenge at hand to take their team to the next level.