Pritchard may have been my favorite player to watch over the past two college seasons, but with all due respect, I must say that I was very surprised when the Celtics selected him in the first round. At this spot in the draft, Theo Maledon and Malachi Flynn were available, and both were ranked significantly higher on the HP Draft Board. Maledon offers better size and has much more upside due to his youth. Flynn and Pritchard have a number of similarities, but the former is a better defender.
Going into the draft, the Celtics certainly had need of a backup point guard whose strength is facilitating for others. Boston was near the bottom of the league (25th) last season for assist percentage, partially because they have a number of excellent isolation players, but also because they lack a true lead guard.
After the draft, the Celtics addressed their issues at the point by signing veteran free agent Jeff Teague, but the team experienced a setback when Kemba Walker suffered a left knee injury in early December and was projected to miss more than a month. In preseason action, Prichard averaged nearly 21 minutes per game over four contests; the rookie had his share of ups and downs, and it remains to be seen if he and Teague will be able to “hold the fort” while Walker is sidelined.
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Pritchard was a four-year starter at Oregon. As a freshman, he was mainly a distributor and an occasional deep threat on a team that made it to the Final Four. His development continued throughout his career, and by the time he reached the midpoint of his senior season, he was a serious contender to be the national player of the year. By season’s end, he was the first player in PAC-12 history to have at least 1,900 career points, 500 career rebounds, and 600 career assists. He also became Oregon’s all-time leader for wins with 105 and assists with 659 (ninth most in PAC-12 history). Additionally, he earned numerous honors, including the PAC-12 Player of Year, the Bob Cousy Award, and a first-team All-America selection.
During his four years as a Duck, Pritchard transformed from a steady role player to an offensive machine. He has good speed and quickness, great agility, a tight handle, and a sweet shot. He is a master at changing speed and direction with the ball in his hands. He has excellent vision and smarts as a playmaker. He is smooth on the pull up, quick on the release, and has very deep range. He also has nice touch and body control around the rim. In short, he can make plays for others or score from just about anywhere on the floor, and he is a nightmare to defend.
This past season, Pritchard averaged 20.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 5.6 assists, and 1.5 steals per game, with shooting splits of .468/.415/.821 and an A/T ratio of 2.02. Nationally, he ranked 20th for 3-point percentage, eighth for win shares (6.9), and tenth for BPM (11.1). In the PAC 12, he led the conference in points per game and assists per game, among other things, and the senior finished in the top 10 of the conference in a number of other departments, including true shooting percentage (60.1) and PER (27.7).
In terms of points per possession, Pritchard ranked at 89th percentile, and for combined points and assists per possession, he finished at the 97th percentile. Nearly 78 percent of his possessions came via handling in the pick and roll, spotting up, transition, and isolation, in that order, and the only area where he did not rank better than the 80th percentile was in ISO (69th percentile), which he did just 13.5 percent of the time. He was at his best on spot-up plays (93rd percentile), which accounted for 21 percent of his possessions.
Pritchard’s primary offensive weakness is going to the basket, where his lack of size, length, and vertical pop all come into play. On half-court shots within seven feet this season, he made just 50.9 percent of his attempts. The 22-year-old has yet to master the art of making floaters, something that he’ll need at the NBA level.
Defensively, Pritchard’s lack of size and length is an issue. He blocked only one shot as a senior, and he allowed 0.85 PPP, which ranked at the 44th percentile. Despite carrying a heavy offensive load this season, he gave good effort, and his foot speed and lateral movement are above average. He also has quick hands and good anticipation, which helped him rank in the top 15 of the PAC 12 for steal percentage for four straight seasons. Ultimately, it’s very unlikely that he will be a great defender at the NBA level, but he should provide enough resistance to not be a huge liability.
Overall, Pritchard has a great deal of offensive skill, heart and smarts, but his lack of size and relative older age work against him. He should be a valuable backup in the league for a numbers of years, but expecting anything more than that is unreasonable.
— Richard Harris
Dustin Barnes’ Player Profile
Sources, Credits, and Acknowledgements: Stats used in our scouting reports mainly come from Synergy Sports Technology, RealGM.com, and Sports-Reference.com. Other outside sources are noted with links to the source.