Payton Pritchard looks back on the 2022-23 season similar to a redshirt year. The Boston Celtics guard entered the campaign behind three veterans in Marcus Smart, Derrick White and July addition Malcolm Brogdon. Because of Boston’s depth, Pritchard averaged merely 13 minutes and played in just 48 of Boston’s 82 regular-season games.

“I kind of knew that I wasn’t going to play unless guys were hurt,” Pritchard recalled during Celtics media day.

Pritchard was open to be traded in hopes of getting a chance to play elsewhere. He was set to become a free agent after the 2023-24 campaign, too, which understandably added to his desire for minutes. Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens, however, wasn’t about to give Pritchard away for nothing. He was too valuable, despite the fact his value was rarely on display on game day.

“So I went to work,” Pritchard said. “I worked on the areas that I needed to get better at, and got better on the areas I already was good at.”

Story continues below advertisement

He did so for one reason.

“When my opportunity does come, I truly believe I’ll be ready for it.”

    What do you think?  Leave a comment.

Well, Pritchard’s opportunity is here.

The 2020 first-round pick figures to start the best chance of his professional career when the Celtics open their 2023-24 campaign Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden. Pritchard will have the opportunity to carve out a role as Boston’s third guard. He will spell offseason addition Jrue Holiday and White on a team that is the betting favorite to win an NBA title.

Story continues below advertisement

Pritchard believes he’s ready for the opportunity. The Celtics will need him to be.

While the Green feature a top six that is arguably the best in the NBA — Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Kristaps Porzingis, Al Horford, Holiday and White — it’s fair to think that group won’t always be available during the 82-game regular season.

Horford didn’t play the second night on a back-to-back last season. With Porzingis having dealt with injuries in the past, head coach Joe Mazzulla could opt to keep him on a bit of a pitch count, too. Perhaps Horford and Porzingis rotate during a back-to-back? And while Tatum and Brown aren’t of the mindset to take unneeded days off, perhaps their minutes also will be monitored with a mid-June run in mind.

There will be contests in the dog days of the season — January, February, March — where Pritchard could be tasked with 30-plus minutes. Those games are just as important for playoff seeding. An opportunity almost certainly will present itself, much like Pritchard hoped.

Story continues below advertisement

No Matchup Found

Click here to enter a different Sportradar ID.

He’s not the only one who believes he’ll be ready for it. Just about everyone in the organization has praised Pritchard one time or another this offseason or preseason.

Stevens, who signed Pritchard to a four-year contract extension worth $30 million Oct. 8, acknowledged how Pritchard is “obsessed” with hooping.

Mazzulla highlighted the mindset and intensity Pritchard brings to the floor. It led him to a second contract despite a rocky three seasons, Mazzulla said.

Story continues below advertisement

Fellow reserve Sam Hauser noted how Pritchard has been “out for blood” while Holiday called him a “natural bucket” and stressed his versatility.

“Preseason P” certainly impressed in his exhibition opportunities. He led the second unit and did so effectively. In five preseason games, Pritchard scored double-figures in all four he played 20 or more minutes. He started the preseason slate with 26 points in 23 minutes against the Philadelphia 76ers and then scored 21 points in 29 minutes against the New York Knicks.

Pritchard will be called upon to push the ball on offense and play hectic defense for a Celtics team that could feast on both ends. While he could have trouble guarding a few of the bigger guards, Pritchard’s buy-in on that end will be key to more minutes. And while playing time in the postseason is no certainty with Boston’s top six, a productive regular season will go a long way in that opportunity.

It’s now time to prove he’s ready for it.

Story continues below advertisement

Featured image via Eric Canha/USA TODAY Sports Images