Payton Pritchard

Draft Rumors: Banchero, Possible Trades, Sharpe, Sixers, Wolves

A major swing occurred overnight in sportsbooks across the country, according to Matt Moore of Action Network, who tweets that every book with odds available for the No. 1 overall pick now lists Duke’s Paolo Banchero as the favorite to come off the board first.

It’s a fascinating turn of events with the draft just hours away, though it’s hard to ascertain what exactly it means. Do those oddsmakers know something about the Magic‘s plans that the general public doesn’t? Did some bettors swing the odds by placing significant wagers on Banchero, either because they have inside info or because they want to create more favorable odds for subsequent bets on Jabari Smith? Could a trade involving the top pick be in the works?

Most NBA reporters and draft experts have stated for weeks that it would be a surprise for anyone besides Smith to go to Orlando at No. 1. However, he’s far from the lock that recent first overall picks like Cade Cunningham and Zion Williamson have been. This 11th-hour swing in betting odds only adds more intrigue to the top of tonight’s draft.

Here’s more on the 2022 NBA draft:

  • The Pacers, Jazz, Celtics, and Pistons are among the teams believed to be looking into acquiring a pick in the back half of the first round, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report. Boston seems open to discussing young rotation players like Grant Williams and Payton Pritchard in those talks, Fischer adds.
  • The latest round-up of draft-related intel from Jeremy Woo of SI.com includes notes on Shaedon Sharpe, who continues to be linked to the Trail Blazers at No. 7; the Sixers‘ No. 23 pick, which rival teams believe will be dealt; and the list of teams thought to have interest in acquiring a second-round pick, which includes the Lakers, Jazz, Mavericks, Suns, Nets, and Heat.
  • Timberwolves president of basketball operations Tim Connelly said on Wednesday his team is “super open” to trading the No. 19 overall pick, per Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (Twitter link). We’ve had countless conversations about using that pick to add a more quickly impactful piece,” Connelly said. “But 99% of these conversations are just theoretical.”

Celtics Notes: R. Williams, Smart, Pritchard, Offseason

Celtics center Robert Williams endured a painful stretch of playoff basketball after returning from meniscus surgery that sidelined him for the end of the regular season, writes Brian Robb of MassLive. Williams expects the pain in his left knee to fade away during the offseason, but he said the sting of losing the NBA Finals will be harder to recover from.

“It don’t stop hurting,” he said about falling short of a title. “Honestly, it never stops hurting until we’re back in this position again. Starting with the beginning of the season. Just got to be better, man. Got to be better. Everyone got to take a step up, add a little intensity to everything we’re doing. But it never stops hurting.”

Williams became a full-time starter during his fourth NBA season and posted career-best numbers with 10.0 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game. The extension he signed last summer will keep him in Boston through 2026 and provide him with a few more chances to chase a title with the Celtics.

Coach Ime Udoka wants to see Williams get stronger heading into 2022/23 to protect himself against further injuries.

“A big part is taking care of your body and staying available,” Udoka said. “Obviously, had to strengthen up his legs, build all the muscle around it to protect his knees. But what I did tell him also was credit for playing through what he did and giving it a go, being out there for us. Now it’s time to rest up, heal up, be ready for next season and come back in better shape, better than you were this year coming into the season.”

There’s more from Boston:

  • Even though the season ended in disappointment, players expressed confidence that the team is moving in the right direction after a strong second half surge, per Souichi Terada of MassLive. Marcus Smart reflected on Boston’s ability to turn things around after an 18-21 start. “This is probably our worst series (in the Finals),” he said. “It’s part of it. It happens. It is what it is. But we’re young. Things we went through to get here showed us what we have to come for us in the future. I think that’s why we’re confident about the future.”
  • The Celtics’ moves at the trade deadline created an opportunity for Payton Pritchard, Justin Quinn writes for Yahoo Sports. The second-year shooting guard hopes to carry the experience into next season. “This season’s probably been one of my biggest growths mentally,” Pritchard said. “Starting off the season, it was a different situation. I wasn’t playing at all for like the first 60 games, in and out and then the trade deadline happened and then I got an opportunity to play.”
  • In an offseason preview, Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype looks at players the Celtics might target with their mid-level exception and their trade exceptions.

Atlantic Notes: Harden, Achiuwa, Pritchard, Quickley

James Harden was brilliant in his Sixers debut Friday night, but he couldn’t escape questions about whether his reputation has suffered after issuing trade demands to two teams in 13 months, writes Brian Hall of The Associated Press. The former MVP put up a near triple-double with 27 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds in a win at Minnesota, but the postgame conversation centered around the circumstances that led to his departure from Brooklyn.

“Just because the current situation happened, whatever happened, happened,” Harden said. “It doesn’t mean that I’m a bad teammate. Me, personally, I feel like I needed to do what’s best for my career, and help myself and be happy. It doesn’t harp on whether I’m a bad teammate or not.”

Sixers players and coaches are extremely happy to have Harden on board. Doc Rivers raved about how Harden has raised the level of communication since arriving, and Joel Embiid noticed an immediate difference in the quality of shots that he’s getting.

“I’ve never been wide open like this in my life,” Embiid said. “Seriously, the passing, like I wasn’t even expecting it and it was just coming.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Although the Raptors were blown out Saturday for the second straight night, Precious Achiuwa continues to be impressive, notes Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca. The 22-year-old big man, who was acquired from the Heat in the Kyle Lowry trade, put up 21 points and nine rebounds in 30 minutes off the bench. He could be on the way to replacing Khem Birch in the starting lineup, tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports.
  • The Celtics‘ decision to keep Payton Pritchard at the trade deadline is paying off, says Trevor Hass of Boston.com. The second-year guard played an important role in Saturday’s win at Detroit, delivering 19 points and six assists in 27 minutes, the most he has logged in two months. “My confidence never should waver,” Pritchard said. “For me, it’s just staying ready and trying to find little ways to help this team win. That’s my job, so I’m going to keep doing it.”
  • The slumping Knicks could use a boost from Immanuel Quickley, who is mired in a long shooting slump, writes Peter Botte of The New York Post. Quickley, who’s expected to become a primary ball-handler off the bench with Derrick Rose and Kemba Walker both unavailable, is shooting 30.7% from the field and 26.6% from three-point range in his last 19 games. “Teammates tell me all the time, sometimes they go in, sometimes they don’t, but you just gotta keep the main thing, which is playing defense every night, playing hard every night and just bringing other things to the table,” Quickley said. “You can do other things good when you don’t shoot well. You can still bring other things to win.” 

Atlantic Notes: White, Theis, Durant, Claxton, Knicks

The Celtics’ flurry of action prior to the trade deadline has left them with a handful of open roster spots. They’ll fill them by signing free agents to 10-day deals in the short term, then explore the buyout market as players become available, Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe reports.

The trades that they made were done to improve the second unit, Himmelsbach adds. They view Derrick White as an upgrade in a sixth-man role, while Daniel Theis has already shown during his previous stint with the Celtics that he can mesh with this group. That deal with Houston for Theis came together at the last minute, Himmelsbach tweets.

The trades will also open up playing time for Payton Pritchard and Aaron Nesmith.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • How does Kevin Durant feel about the James Harden trade? In a TNT interview (hat tip to the Washington Post’s Ben Golliver), the Nets superstar said, “I’m excited for our team and looking forward to finishing the season out with this new group … The playoffs are right around the corner and we’ve got to fast track and get used to each other. I think everybody got what they wanted.”
  • The Nets explored trades involving Nic Claxton, Kristian Winfield of the New York Daily News tweets. Andre Drummond was added in the Harden deal and LaMarcus Aldridge is expected to return in the near future from an ankle sprain. Those developments will presumably eat into Claxton’s playing time.
  • The Knicks, who didn’t pull off a trade on Thursday, still want to compete for a play-in spot, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. They still believe they made an upgrade in adding Cam Reddish last month, even though coach Tom Thibodeau has played the young wing sparingly, and they’re expected to get Derrick Rose back in action from ankle surgery later this month.

Celtics Rumors: Trade Deadline, Schröder, Stevens

The Celtics‘ recent hot streak appears to have shifted the team’s perspective heading into the trade deadline, according to Chris Mannix of SI.com, who hears from sources that Boston has gone from being a possible seller to a potential buyer.

Celtics head coach Ime Udoka likes what he has seen from his team lately and doesn’t sound particularly eager to break up the current group, but he acknowledged that Boston’s eight wins in its last nine games, including six victories in a row, may change the deadline equation for the front office — especially since the Celtics’ strong recent play may boost the trade value of some of their players.

“We’re happy with how we’re playing, happy with what the guys are doing and seeing our full group together now,” Udoka said, per Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe.“I’m sure it changed some of the [trade] conversation based on what we’re doing lately.”

Here are a few more Celtics-related notes and rumors:

  • According to Mannix, Boston continues to shop Dennis Schröder in trade talks, but teams that have talked to the Celtics say they’re asking for a player and draft capital in any deal involving the guard. The C’s seem unlikely to part with Schröder unless they get a rotation player in return, says Mannix, adding that the Bucks, Cavaliers, and Mavericks remain in the mix. We wrote on Tuesday about what a Milwaukee or Cleveland deal for Schröder might look like.
  • Steve Bulpett of Heavy.com has also heard that the Celtics want something of value back for Schröder and aren’t just looking for a deal that gets them under the luxury tax line. “He’s been playing well, and he’s been a good part of what they’re doing lately,” one league exec said to Bulpett. “I still think they might prefer to move him, but now they’re looking for an asset in return. They don’t feel like they HAVE to trade him now, and they’d like to turn him into an asset for next year.”
  • Some people in the organization would like to keep Schröder for depth purposes, while others would be comfortable using Josh Richardson and Payton Pritchard to replace his minutes, says Bulpett. According to Keith Smith of Spotrac (Twitter link), Boston also expects veteran point guards to be available on the buyout market, which could be an option if the team trades Schröder without receiving a point guard in return.
  • Rival teams seem to enjoy talking trades with new Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens more than they did with Danny Ainge, Smith adds (via Twitter). It’s less like you’re giving up rights to your first-born,” one opposing executive said. Another said Ainge had a tendency to try to “get blood from a stone and squeeze for ‘one more thing.'”

Celtics Heavily Involved In Trade Discussions

The Celtics have been extremely active in trade talks with the aim of improving the pieces around stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, longtime beat writer Steve Bulpett reports in a Heavy.com story.

President of basketball operations Brad Stevens is looking to at least improve the team’s salary cap sheet and free up more playing time for young players such as Payton Pritchard, Aaron Nesmith and Romeo Langford.

The Celtics already made one move this month to improve their salary cap situation and reduce their chances of paying the luxury tax, dealing Juancho Hernangomez and his $7MM salary to San Antonio in a three-team trade.

Boston has been exploring the trade value of Al Horford, who is making $27MM this season and has a partial guarantee of $14.5MM on his $26.5MM contract next season.

Though Bulpett didn’t specify which other players the Celtics are looking to deal, it stands to reason that Dennis Schröder (a free agent again this summer), Josh Richardson and Marcus Smart would have the types of contracts they’d like to move. Richardson’s contract runs through next season and Smart signed a four-year extension last summer.

Another interesting nugget in Bulpett’s report is that Celtics had targeted big man Alperen Sengun if they had kept their first round pick last year. They wound up dealing it to Oklahoma City, which eventually ended up drafting Sengun and trading him to the Rockets. Boston shed Kemba Walker‘s contract in the trade with the Thunder. Sengun is averaging 8.8 PPG, 4.6 RPG and 2.6 APG with Houston in 39 appearances.

COVID-19 Updates: Beal, Gill, Pacers, Pritchard, Young, Sixers

Wizards guard Bradley Beal re-entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols on Tuesday, as Josh Robbins of The Athletic tweets. It’s Beal’s second protocol-related absence within the last month — he missed three games between December 23-28 due to contact tracing, Robbins notes.

Unlike last season, when any player determined to be a close contact of someone who tested positive for COVID-19 was placed in the protocols, those guidelines only apply to unvaccinated players this season. Beal began the season unvaccinated, but confirmed when he returned in late December that he had recently received the vaccine. That could mean his absence this time around isn’t related to contact tracing, and that he returned a positive or inconclusive test.

The Wizards did get one piece of good news on Tuesday afternoon, as forward Anthony Gill exited the protocols, per Robbins (Twitter link). That means Beal is currently the only Washington player affected.

Here are more protocol-related updates from around the NBA:

  • The Pacers announced on Tuesday that Caris LeVert and Goga Bitadze have exited the health and safety protocols, as James Boyd of The Indianapolis Star writes. Both players have a chance to be available on Wednesday vs. Boston. They’re listed as questionable for now.
  • The Celtics no longer have any players in the COVID-19 protocols, as guard Payton Pritchard has been cleared, according to Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston (Twitter link).
  • Spurs forward Thaddeus Young is no longer in the health and safety protocols, tweets Paul Garcia of Project Spurs. However, San Antonio still has five players in the protocols, tied with Utah for the highest current total in the league.
  • Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey and forward Paul Reed aren’t listed on the team’s latest injury report, indicating that they’ve both cleared the protocols (Twitter links via Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer and Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia).
  • Of approximately 2,400 “tier 1” staffers working for NBA teams, there have been more than 500 confirmed cases of COVID-19 this season, creating major challenges for franchises, writes Baxter Holmes of ESPN. “You’re basically taking an assembly of people who help the athletes and taking a few people off the line every few days for a week or more,” one athletic training official told ESPN. “It has interfered significantly with the regular protocols and people being given responsibilities/duties they don’t normally have or are even qualified to do in order to get the job done. It’s been the Wild Wild West.”

COVID-19 Updates: Wizards, Budenholzer, Celtics, Nance, Duarte, More

The Wizards are on the verge of replenishing their point guard depth, with Spencer Dinwiddie and Aaron Holiday now out of the NBA’s health and safety protocols, per Josh Robbins of The Athletic (Twitter link). Both players will remain sidelined for at least one more game, however, as they work on their conditioning.

Here are more protocol-related updates from around the league:

  • Mike Budenholzer has become the latest head coach to enter the health and safety protocols, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Darvin Ham will serve as the Bucks‘ acting head coach in Budenholzer’s absence.
  • Aaron Nesmith has exited the health and safety protocols, but another Celtics player – Payton Pritchard – has entered them, tweets Jared Weiss of The Athletic.
  • Trail Blazers big man Larry Nance Jr. entered the COVID-19 protocols on Tuesday, but it’s possible he’ll be able to clear them quickly. According to Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian (Twitter links), head coach Chauncey Billups said Nance registered an inconclusive test, so if he can return two consecutive negatives at least 24 hours apart, he’ll exit the protocols.
  • Pacers rookie Chris Duarte has cleared the protocols, though he’s doubtful to play in Wednesday’s game vs. Brooklyn, tweets Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files.
  • Cory Joseph, who was the last Pistons player in the protocols, has exited them, according to Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press (Twitter link). Joseph remains unavailable for Wednesday’s game in Charlotte due to return to competition reconditioning.
  • Rookies Marko Simonovic (Bulls) and Brandon Boston Jr. (Clippers) were at their respective teams’ practices today and are no longer in the protocols (Twitter links via K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago and Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times).
  • Other players who have cleared the protocols include Spurs forward Devontae Cacok and Mavericks rookie JaQuori McLaughlin. Cacok is out vs. Boston on Wednesday due to return to competition reconditioning (Twitter link via Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News), while McLaughlin is no longer on Dallas’ injury report.

Celtics Exercising 2022/23 Options On Nesmith, Pritchard

The Celtics are picking up their team options for 2022/23 on swingman Aaron Nesmith and guard Payton Pritchard, a league source tells Brian Robb of MassLive.com. The moves had been expected. Boston also exercised its ’22/23 options on Grant Williams and Romeo Langford, as we relayed earlier today.

The 14th overall pick in the 2020 draft, Nesmith averaged 4.7 PPG and 2.8 RPG with a .370 3PT% in 46 games (14.5 MPG) as a rookie. He’s off to a slow start this season, having missed his first 10 field goal attempts in three games, but the Celtics have seen enough from the 22-year-old to feel comfortable guaranteeing his $3,804,360 salary for ’22/23.

Pritchard, who was selected 12 spots after Nesmith at No. 26 in the 2020 draft, had a bigger role as a rookie, putting up 7.7 PPG and 2.4 RPG on .440/.411/.889 shooting in 66 games (19.2 MPG). He remains a part of Boston’s backcourt rotation and is under contract at a bargain rate — $2,137,440 this season and $2,239,200 in ’22/23.

We’re tracking all of the 2022/23 rookie scale option decisions right here.

Atlantic Notes: Pritchard, Brown, Toppin, Rose

Payton Pritchard has emerged as the top reserve on an otherwise thin Celtics bench, ESPN’s Tim Bontemps writes. Pritchard, who made six 3-pointers against Toronto on Thursday, has thrived as an off-the-ball guard whose shot opposing defenses have to respect. That provides Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown with space to operate and the 26th pick in last year’s draft has also held his own defensively.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Brown is dealing with tendonitis in his left knee, radio show Toucher and Rich tweets. GM Danny Ainge said the team will keep close tabs on Brown’s knee issue. Brown has appeared in 22 of Boston’s 24 games entering Friday’s action, averaging 26 PPG in 33.2 MPG.
  • Knicks rookie forward Obi Toppin could reap benefits from playing with recently-acquired Derrick Rose, Steve Popper of Newsday notes. Toppin was fouled while dunking off a pass from Rose against Miami on Tuesday. Toppin could return to his rim-running ways in college, rather than be used a spot-up shooter. “Playing with him, he plays with speed. He looks to find guys,” Toppin said of Rose. “So playing with this team, period, is amazing, but Derrick, having him here now is amazing.”
  • The Knicks will start allowing a limited number of fans at Madison Square Garden on February 23 and Toppin is excited to finally play in front of a home crowd, he told Marc Berman of the New York Post. “We have the best fan base in the NBA,” he said. “It will be amazing to have fans. But safety is first. When that time comes for fans to be there we’ll love it.’