When it comes to preseason basketball, its significance may be limited, but it does offer glimpses into certain developments. Here, we present five early takeaways (along with some potential overreactions) from the Celtics’ preseason games.
1. Payton Pritchard: Thriving in the preseason
Pritchard has been impressive in the first three games, living up to the praise he received from his teammates during training camp. He has averaged 21.3 points in 25.4 minutes per game, with an efficient shooting percentage of 41.9% from beyond the arc and 52.3% overall. He’s been taking over 10 three-pointers per game, converting 13 of them, some of which have been quite challenging.
It’s clear that the Celtics trust Pritchard to be their backup, as evidenced by their offseason trades to make room for him in the rotation and the four-year, $30 million contract extension they signed him to. While he may not get as many touches or shot attempts in the regular season, it seems like the coaching staff intends to give him the green light when he’s on the court.
Pritchard’s usage rate has never been above 20 percent, but it’s likely to set a new career-high this season. The Celtics bench, including Sam Hauser, could rely heavily on the three-point shooting prowess of players like Pritchard. With his current performance, he could emerge as the seventh man.
2. Joe Mazzulla: Evolving in his role
Mazzulla seems to be more comfortable and open in his second season as an assistant coach. In the past, he avoided directly addressing questions about player mistakes, but he seems to have adopted a more straightforward approach now. This change reflects his belief in holding players to a high standard while supporting them.
Mazzulla’s evolution as a coach may not directly impact game outcomes, but it could have a positive influence on the team this season.
3. Rebounding: A continued team effort
Last season, the Celtics led the league in defensive rebound rate despite relying on small lineups and dealing with injuries. Players like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown stepped up their rebounding game, providing crucial support in the absence of Robert Williams. This season, even with Kristaps Porziņģis on board, the Celtics wings and guards must remain focused on rebounding. While they can use bigger lineups, they need to be wary of physical rebounders like Mitchell Robinson. However, players like Oshae Brissett and Lamar Stevens have demonstrated their appetite for rebounding, providing hope for the Celtics to maintain their strength in this area.
4. Wing Players: A competition for minutes
Aside from the top six players, Pritchard, Hauser, and Kornet are the top contenders for bench minutes. While the Celtics may not need to go deeper into their rotation when everyone is healthy, they could use another wing player when necessary. So far, the candidates have shown mixed results. Svi Mykhailiuk has been the best shooter, but his defensive impact might not match up to players like Brissett, Stevens, and Banton. The latter three have contributed with their hustle plays, although they have struggled with their shooting. At this point, there is no clear leader for the role, but there’s still time for someone to stand out.
5. Quick Meshing: The new roster’s potential
Although there will be an adjustment period with the addition of Porziņģis and Holiday, the early signs are promising. Porziņģis should provide significant benefits to the team, as previously analyzed by Jared Wess. Additionally, Holiday’s ability to make winning plays complements their playing style. The Celtics’ roster seems to gel well together, but it’s important to remember that it’s still early in the preseason.
(Photo: Sarah Stier / Getty Images)
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