Boston Celtics: Welcome to Payton Prichard mania

Don’t look now, but the Boston Celtics are 8-3 and riding a five-game winning streak despite dealing with Covid-19 and playing without Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker.

One of the main reasons is the play of rookie guard Payton Prichard.  That’s Payton Prichard mania that is.

While teammates and fans are trying to find a nickname to suit the 22-year-old guard out of Oregon, there is one name that is suiting him just fine early on in the NBA season and that is Rookie of the Year.

It’s still a long shot that he will win it given the talent taken ahead of him in the 2020 NBA Draft, but he will defensively be a candidate if his impact on the team continues.  And if you don’t believe me, check out with former Celtics player and current analyst Kendrick Perkins had to say following the team’s 124-97 win over the Orlando Magic.

After putting up 16 points in that game, Pritchard is averaging 9.3 points on the season and 3.1 assists.  It is more than the stats however, what the No. 26 overall pick in the NBA Draft is doing is giving the Celtics solid play off the bench and given the team some depth at the guard position.

Boston Celtics rookie Payton Prichard is a player ready for the opportunity

Overall, it is his intensity that really has his teammates and coach Brad Stevens marveling at the rookie, which is why the nickname P-Rabbit seems to be sticking.

Following a career-high 23-point game against the Toronto Raptors earlier in the season, Stevens, who has a track record of not playing rookies early in the season, acknowledged his confidence in Prichard and how the team will lean on him with Walker working his way back.

“He’s had more good nights, for sure, than not,” Stevens said, as transcribed by Boston.com.  “And we’re going to ask him to do a lot right now.  Fair or unfair to him, he’s going to have to be consistent for us, for us to have a chance to be a good team.”

The Boston Celtics certainly have been a good team after starting the season 3-3 and that’s because Prichard has been one of the players stepping up and making plays down the stretch of games, highlighted by his game-winner against the Miami Heat.

Just imagine if and when fans are allowed back into TD Garden.  The mania for this kid would just explode even more because he is one of those players who do the little things on the court and a player who finds ways to contribute.  Most importantly, he is a player who stays ready for the opportunity, thus far, taking advantage of it.

Looks like Danny Ainge finally got one right in the later round of the draft.  The only question that lies ahead is how his playing time will be affected with the return of Kemba.