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Why Payton Pritchard’s struggles should be a concern for the Boston Celtics

With the Boston Celtics’ bench being inconsistent to start the season, Payton Pritchard has been at the forefront of it.  

With the Boston Celtics’ bench being inconsistent to start the season, Payton Pritchard has been at the forefront of it.


 The Boston Celtics have started the season strong at 8-2, but their bench production, specifically from Payton Pritchard, is becoming a concern.  Pritchard has seen his role change and has struggled to put up his usual numbers, shooting a career-worst from the field and beyond the arc.  Despite Pritchard’s struggles, his teammates have confidence in him and believe he can bounce back. However, if his struggles continue, tough decisions may need to be made by the trade deadline.

The Boston Celtics have cruised to an 8-2 start to their 2023-24 campaign, continuing to cement their place as one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference and the league.

However, their bench production has started to be seen as a weakness, and at the center of those struggles is guard Payton Pritchard. He’s seen his role change over the past few seasons, getting more playing time during the Celtics’ run to the NBA Finals in 2022 before seeing it dip due to his reduced role behind Derrick White, Marcus Smart, and Malcolm Brogdon the following season.

Pritchard having a hard time with increased role

With Smart and Brogdon now out of the picture due to Boston trading them over the offseason, Pritchard now has the added responsibility of operating the offense in the second unit when starters White and Jrue Holiday are getting their periods of rest. While the Celtics’ offense has been quite strong to start the season, Pritchard has struggled to put up the averages he had in prior years.

In 10 games so far, the fourth year guard is averaging a career-low 4.7 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.7 assists (both career-highs), but is shooting a career-worst 30.6 percent from the field and 20 percent from beyond the arc. These shooting splits are well below his career averages, which are 42.4 percent overall and 39.1 percent from three.

With Pritchard being well-known across the league as one of the best spark plugs off the bench with his elite shooting from deep, this start to the season has been quite unexpected for him. His struggles became even more apparent when he went scoreless in four of Boston’s 10 contests.

His effectiveness on the court has taken a dip as well, especially with his shot not falling. When compared to fellow Celtics who have played over 150 minutes, he has the third-lowest offensive rating of 112 and the lowest defensive rating of 111.

He has noticeably begun to be more aggressive and focused on his offensive tenacity on the court, scoring 13 points on 5-10 shooting in a solid win over the Brooklyn Nets last Friday. However, the inconsistency in his scoring could become a concern for the Celtics, who are in need of someone who can take some of the workload off of the starters.

Celtics still succeeding despite Pritchard’s struggles

However, Boston might not be worried about Pritchard being rusty with his shooting to start the season. After all, their biggest acquisitions in Kristaps Porzingis and Holiday over the summer seem to have been perfect additions to the squad, opening the campaign 5-0 with these two players seamlessly fitting into the Celtics’ schemes on offense and defense.

This has provided massive help to stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who want to get to their best spots with ease while making the plays needed to help Boston win games.

And despite Prichard’s struggles, his Celtic teammates have maintained their confidence in his ability to bounce back. For starters, Brown was positive about the young guard being able to persevere through the ups and downs.

“Payton just brings a different energy to the game,” Brown said following Boston’s win over Brooklyn.

Even with the criticism that has come his way with the underwhelming displays to start the season, Pritchard has shown that he is not fazed.

“What would Payton Pritchard tweet to the haters? “Uhhhh, I dunno, keep hating. Like this is just making me better. This is part of the journey. You know, these slumps, I think at the end of the day, it will pay dividends and will make me a better player overall,” he said.

It’s great for Pritchard to see his teammates rallying behind him, but it’s also important for him to be resilient with the obstacles that come his way. If anything, going through hardships has been a theme for the guard these past few seasons. He has gone through frustrations with the reduced role he had during the 2022-23 season and was surrounded by trade rumors throughout the offseason before finally signing a new contract. Managing the struggles he is having this year is another objective he will just have to get past.

Bench production may not be the biggest issue for Boston, who are still in a convincing position to finish with one of the top spots in the Eastern Conference should they maintain their excellent offense and defense. However, if Pritchard’s struggles linger throughout the campaign, some tough decisions may have to be considered by the trade deadline.