Discover the Top Ball Handlers of the 2023-24 Season: A Comprehensive Roster Analysis

With training camp underway, it’s time for a comprehensive analysis of the Celtics’ roster for the upcoming 2023-24 season. Rather than using traditional positional tags, like 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, we’re taking a page out of President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens’ book and categorizing each player differently.

Last week, we examined the bigs and wings, so now it’s time to focus on the ball handlers in Boston’s lineup. While the Celtics have multiple players who can facilitate the offense, we’ll primarily highlight the top five guys in terms of minutes played per game last season.

1. Jrue Holiday:

In a bold last-minute roster move, the Celtics traded for Jrue Holiday, a veteran point guard who will serve as their primary ball handler. Holiday brings an impressive list of achievements, along with exceptional work ethic and leadership. He earned his second career All-Star nod, his fifth consecutive All-Defense selection (including his third as a member of the First Team), and his third Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award last season. Holiday’s numbers speak for themselves, averaging 19.3 points, 7.4 assists, 5.1 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game as the lead point guard for the Bucks, who had the best record in the league. His presence on the court will relieve some pressure from All-NBA wings Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum while complementing their playing style.

2. Derrick White:

When starting point guard Marcus Smart suffered an ankle sprain midway through last season and missed 11 games, Derrick White stepped in as the team’s primary ball handler. This opportunity seemed to be a turning point in White’s season as he averaged 20.1 points, 5.8 assists, and 4.6 rebounds per game. He even earned an Eastern Conference Player of the Week nod. Even after Smart’s return, White continued to impress and became one of the team’s top playmakers. This season, White will likely play a similar role, whether it’s as a starting shooting guard or as Holiday’s backup point guard. Additionally, White and Holiday will form one of the most feared defensive backcourts in the league, with both players receiving All-Defensive team honors last season.

3. Payton Pritchard:

The Celtics lost two high-minute ball handlers in Marcus Smart and Malcolm Brogdon this offseason, but they also gained Jrue Holiday. However, there are still minutes up for grabs at the point guard spot, and Payton Pritchard is primed to take advantage of the situation. Pritchard’s role was inconsistent last season due to the team’s depth at the position, but his performance was consistently excellent whenever called upon. In the regular-season finale, Pritchard even recorded his first career triple-double as a starter. He’s a career 40.0 percent shooter from 3-point range, an elite dribbler, and a skilled passer. With the point guard log jam now cleared up, Pritchard is poised to establish himself as a key contributor.

4. Dalano Banton:

Dalano Banton left a memorable impression on the Celtics in the second-to-last game of the 2022-23 regular season. Despite playing only minutes, Banton scored 10 points on a perfect 4-for-4 shooting, making it one of the most efficient double-digit scoring efforts in NBA history. The Celtics later signed Banton as a free agent, bringing the Massachusetts prep school standout back to his home state. Standing at 6-foot-9 with exceptional length, Banton is an exciting offensive player who excels in transition, finishing at the rim and operating as a pick-and-roll ballhandler. Impressively, his favorite player growing up was Celtics legend Rajon Rondo, and he modeled his passing game after him.

5. J.D. Davison:

J.D. Davison returns for his second season on a two-way contract. The 20-year-old point guard was selected in the second round of the 2022 draft and spent most of his rookie season in the G League with the Maine Celtics. He ranked among the top five in total assists (227) and assist average (8.7) in the G League. Davison also had limited action in 12 regular-season NBA games, displaying his passing skills and explosive athleticism. He has led the Summer League in total assists for the past two years. This season, Davison will likely continue to split his time between Portland and Boston as he further develops his skills.

As the Celtics head into the 2023-24 season, their ball handlers bring a mix of experience, talent, and potential, making them a formidable force in the league.


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