Few things go together like the Charlotte Hornets and a weak backup point guard position. Throughout Kemba Walker’s time in Charlotte, the Hornets struggled to find a competent backup to run the show when he sat. That problem would’ve been rectified by the ascension of Devonte’ Graham, but he ascended too much and looks to be the team’s starting point guard for the foreseeable future. That bumped Terry Rozier off the ball and again opened a gaping hole at the backup point guard spot. You can’t really bank on a late second round pick filling a significant role like that, but you can try. Payton Pritchard could be worth that attempt.
Weight: 190 pounds
Strengths: Shooting stroke, craftiness
Pritchard’s definite NBA skill is his outside shot. He hit 41.5% of his 3-point attempts as a senior on high volume and with a high degree of difficulty. He hit a number of shots from well beyond the 3-point line, extending out to 30 or 35 feet. He’s a terrific shooter both off the catch and off the dribble. He didn’t shoot many 3-pointers out of pick and rolls at the college game, but his touch from mid range spots and the pull-ups he hit in other situations provide plenty of room for optimism that he’ll be able to do that at the NBA.
His offense isn’t just limited to his shooting. Pritchard has a tight and deceptive handle, which allows him to get to the rim despite his athletic limitations. His handle opens up driving lanes, and he’s surprisingly good finishing at the rim given his lack of physical gifts. He has a deep bag of tricks around the basket, including same hand-same foot finishes and Luka-esque slowdowns at the basket. He’s an adequate passer and should be able to run an offense for short bursts, even if he didn’t prove to be exceptional in this area at the college level.
Weaknesses: Physical tools, room for growth
Pritchard’s lack of NBA athleticism almost stands out when you watch him play. His forays to the rim are very grounded and he lacks burst when there’s an opening. He’s quick to stop and start, but there isn’t much top end speed or explosiveness to speak of. He was able to work around that with skill and savvy at the college level, but it’s not quite as easy to do that in the NBA. There are also questions about how well he’ll be able to defend given his athletic limitations, though he was a good defender in college and he gives full effort on that end.
Pritchard’s less than stellar physical tools combined with his age create questions about how much he’ll develop once he’s in the NBA. He seems to have maxed out his physical gifts with the skills he has, and he’ll turn 23 in January. Is he good enough to be an NBA contributor right now? If he’s not, what can he add to his game to get him there? That’s a harder question to answer for him than it is for a lot of prospects.
Payton Pritchard is going to get the same NBA comparison as every productive, unathletic upperclassman, guard slated to go in the second round—Fred VanVleet. VanVleet has carved out a role for himself with his outside shooting and defensive effort. Pritchard could carve out a similar role, though it’s probably a lot harder than VanVleet makes it look.