Why Marcus Smart has been impressed with rookie Payton Pritchard


There has been a good deal of excitement around one Celtics rookie -- 14th overall pick Aaron Nesmith.

Meanwhile, the Celtics' second first-rounder, 26th overall pick Payton Pritchard, has flown a little bit under the radar.

That's certainly understandable. Nesmith was the higher pick, and he's the one who comes with a clear eye-catching skillset: lights-out three-point shooting.

Pritchard, on the other hand, wasn't a particularly sexy pick. He was a four-year college player who's already 22, he's only 6-foot-1, and some considered it a bit of a reach to take him in the first round.

But it seems the point guard out of Oregon is catching the eye of his new teammates in the Celtics' first handful of practices. When asked which new guy has stood out to him so far, Marcus Smart went with Pritchard.

"I’d probably say Payton Pritchard for me," Smart said. "I kind of had a feeling that he would be a guy that would stand out, and I was looking forward to seeing what he has. He hasn’t disappointed yet."

There could be a good reason Pritchard has stood out to Smart, as he brings some of the same kind of intensity, toughness and aggressiveness that has endeared Smart to Celtics fans.

"He’s tough. He knows how to play. He’s physical. He can shoot the ball," said coach Brad Stevens. "I think that he certainly has had a good couple days. What that means in the long run, big picture, there’s still a lot to sort out. I’m not surprised that he’s stood out to Marcus. I do think that he’s got a lot of courage. I think he’s got a lot of grit. Obviously that’s why he was picked in the first round, and it’s why he’s a good player."

As Stevens alluded to, there's still plenty to figure out when it comes to what kind of role Pritchard will have. He could have an opportunity to see some minutes right away with Kemba Walker set to miss at least the first couple weeks of the season as he works his way through his knee injury.

Veteran Jeff Teague is expected to slot in ahead of Pritchard on the depth chart, and Smart can play point guard as well, but there will be an opportunity for Pritchard if he can show he's ready to handle it.

Jayson Tatum said he also likes Pritchard's compete level while praising both rookies.

"I like those guys. They work hard," Tatum said. "Aaron can really shoot. He’s really physically gifted, athleticism and strength-wise. Payton, obviously he can shoot. He really knows how to play, and he competes at a high level. I like that."