The Boston Celtics Are Still Short A Playmaker

The Boston Celtics are reportedly going to start Derrick White at point guard during this upcoming season, after sending out Marcus Smart in the Kristaps Porziņģis trade.

While White has proved valuable during his Boston stint, it’s fair to wonder if the Celtics have enough playmaking on their roster to make a Finals run.

Malcolm Brogdon, the team’s sixth man and one of Boston’s most crucial guards, is currently undergoing health issues, and was involved in trade rumors before the Celtics acquired Porziņģis. Brogdon’s status health-wise is one thing to keep an eye on, but so is the re-integration of him to a team that were ready to trade him just months ago.

The uncertainty of Brogdon, the best passer on the team, leaves the Celtics thin at the guard spot, and it unquestionably leaves them lacking in the playmaking department. Smart, now a Memphis Grizzly, is no longer there to pick up the slack, as he averaged 6.3 assists last year and and became one of the club’s better on-ball decision makers.

Presumably, Jayson Tatum will see more on-ball duties. While not a traditional playmaker, Tatum does have strong passing instincts, and the team can play through him for extended periods during the course of a game. The question is now whether Tatum can handle having the offense being run through him during weeks at a time.

Tatum, who averaged 4.6 assists last season, could benefit strongly from now having Porziņģis around to initiate screen actions. The 7’3 Latvian can both roll to the basket and spot up from behind the three-point line, and his height allows him to shoot over defenders to an extent that Al Horford cannot, providing the Celtics with a little more flexibility when they run pick and pop sets.

For Tatum, having Porziņģis – a 23-point scorer this year in Washington – could simplify his process of becoming more comfortable with the ball in his hands, and as a decision maker. With Jaylen Brown staying put, at $304 million over five years, Tatum isn’t in need of scorers to pass to.

But as a primary initiator, it’s aggressive to put that much responsibility on the shoulders of Tatum, who’s always had guard help around him, at least to the extent where he hasn’t been used as a hub. So, who can help pick up the slack?

Payton Pritchard is one candidate. The 25-year-old is entering his fourth season and has been dissatisfied with his role for a while. With Brogdon’s status up in the air, no Smart around, and Tatum not a traditional playmaker, head coach Joe Mazzulla could have no choice but to extend the minutes of the former Oregon floor leader, who in college was perfectly capable of running an offense.

In the NBA Pritchard has been more a scorer than a table-setter so far, but that’s mostly been by design as he’s been used as a floor spacer to flank Tatum and Brown.

Will Pritchard help close the gap between the still-evolving Tatum and the loss of Smart? Potentially. But it’s not without risk. Pritchard hasn’t played extended NBA minutes, and never cracked just 20 minutes per game before. In this scenario, he’ll need a lot more than that, and that in and of itself is another adjustment to Boston’s seemingly ever-changing backcourt rotation.

With championship aspirations, the clock is ticking for Boston to find a formula that works.

Unless noted otherwise, all stats via, PBPStats, Cleaning the Glass or Basketball-Reference. All salary information via Spotrac. All odds courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook.

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