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Phil Pressey Should Be The Backup Point Guard


Apart from an uneventful three minute stretch in Boston’s season opener against Toronto, before last night we’d yet to see Phil Pressey in action.

The sample size is small (raise your hand if you’ve ever read that before) and Pressey’s “debut” came against an 0-4 Utah Jazz team playing the dynamic Jamaal Tinsley/John Lucas III duo at point guard, but so far the undrafted rookie does not look at all like an undrafted rookie.


Pressey ran an actual offense, with poised, smart basketball—exactly what you want out of a backup point guard. The performance was especially noticeable replacing Jordan Crawford, whose playing style induces nausea regardless of whether he scores a basket or appears inebriated.

With Rajon Rondo out, the Celtics are void of anyone able to consistently make the right play on a pick-and-roll, or settle things down with correct decisions in a half-court set. Except Pressey. His 17-minute stat line was unimpressive (two points, three assists, two missed threes), but stats aren’t quite able to illustrate the type of impact Pressey had against Utah.

It began towards the end of the first quarter. Jared Sullinger came up to give Pressey a high screen and the guard scurried towards the right elbow, taking a couple quick dribbles before throwing it back to an open Kelly Olynyk over on the weak side. As Jazz defenders began to scramble, Olynyk whipped the ball to the corner for Gerald Wallace, who sunk the three.

On this particular play, Pressey probably could’ve penetrated a few steps further into Utah’s defense, either getting to the rim and drawing a foul or kicking it to Wallace himself after luring in Gordon Hayward from the weak side. But regardless, the results were positive.

A few minutes later Pressey and Sullinger ran another high screen in semi-transition. This time on the left side, with Wallace knocking down another three from the weak side corner. On this play Pressey gets the assist by picking up his dribble at the elbow, looking Wallace’s defender off to the wing and firing a pass towards open space.

For someone Pressey’s size to see the floor so clearly is just awesome, and the way he manipulates Alec Burks was probably one of the reasons Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin gave his third year guard only eight minutes of playing time.

Coming off a miss by Lucas III, Pressey races up right side of the floor and whisks an insane, two-hand overhead, no-look pass to Courtney Lee in the opposite corner. All five Jazz players are caught completely by surprise as they hustle back on defense; their rotation looking like a spider’s web that just got hit by a bowling ball. Lee moves the ball to an open Wallace, who hits an even more open Olynyk underneath the basket for the easy two.

Again, this may not seem like much, but it is. The Celtics are one of the slowest teams in the league yet they’re also near the top in turnover percentage (I don’t think I’ll ever get over hysterical that is), and to have a point guard who doesn’t settle for a jumper six inches in front of the three-point line (sorry, Avery Bradley) when attacking in transition is a step in the right direction. For it to come on a no-look pass is very cool. I’m a fan.

More success in the pick-and-roll! Here’s Pressey working with Jeff Green, who slips the screen and darts towards the rim. Pressey still manages to blow past his man, forcing Derrick Favors to slide over off Kris Humphries. Pressey hits Humphries on cue for a wide open baseline jumper, which doesn’t go in. Poor Humphries. Yay Pressey.

Truth be told, I wasn’t convinced Pressey was worth 800 words until I saw this play, which the Celtics later ran with Crawford in his place during the fourth quarter. Sullinger comes up to run a pick-and-roll, and Bass follows, in an effort to either drag his man (Favors) out of the paint or be open for a jumper from his sweet spot.

Thanks to Wallace, who put Utah on its heels by pushing the ball off a missed shot, the Celtics are afforded a mismatch with Richard Jefferson guarding Pressey. Sullinger sets the screen, Pressey reads Kanter’s defense (which is flat-footed) then explodes to the rim for an easy layup. Kudos to the rookie for taking advantage of a convenient situation and turning it into two points instead of running the play as its designed for the Bass jumper (Bass was open).

He won’t always play this well (probably), but Pressey showed he can be an intelligent influence for extended minutes in an NBA game. With no logical answer at point guard until Rondo returns, Pressey should be seeing between 15-20 minutes a night in a backup capacity. What do the Celtics have to lose?

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  • The Cardinal

    Yep, Pressey should be a permanent part of the rotation. Hopefully we've learned from the final few seasons of Doc's tenure and the first 3 games of this one that not having a point guard or a pretty good ball-handling hybrid on the floor for at least 40 -44 minutes leads to total stagnation of the offense.

    Pressey isn't flashy but he's steady and doesn't seem to force passes, which is a relief. He also showed us he has the ability to get to the rim, but it's refreshing to see he's a pass first PG.

    I actually believe Pressey will push and inspire Jordan Crawford to embrace his role as a facilitator who still has the ability to bail out the team with his scoring. We all know the caveats with Crawford, but he does some really good things at PG. Sam "I Am" Cassell had a wonderful career being Crawford before there was a Crawford, so I'm starting to warm to the idea of keeping the dude around.

    • deanor46

      Pressy should start along side Crawford. they both can pass and get other players involved. Crawford can score from anywhere. No coincidence we got a win with Crawford starting. Bradley is way overrated ,20th in steals ,doesn't score and 2 assists a game don't cut it.

  • Brian

    I think you're being a little harsh on Crawford. I would agree that Pressy looks more poised out there, but Crawford has made huge strides as a ball-handler in making the right decision in their half-court sets.

    • CelticsBIG3

      Agreed Crawford actually does an ok job. But he does move strangely to say the least.

  • hax

    Pressey is still looking reckless(those 4th quarter drives to the rim only to do some twisted 'pass' to sullinger). He has to be the backup pg by default. Crawford practically won that game in the 4th last night by finding the right man and not turning the ball over.

  • Sophomore

    Nice analysis – thanks for posting!

  • swissflix

    Pressey was a nice little spark off the bench tonight. Imho i believe it was Crawford who really excelled as a point guard (except for some parts of the 4th quarter). He played some very, very solid minutes.

  • hydrofluoric

    At this point Crawford's production as a Celtic has drastically outstripped his reputation, to the point where phrases like "Jordan Crawford, whose playing style induces nausea regardless of whether he scores a basket or appears inebriated" seem anachronistic and lazy, like a TV show where a video game-playing character is just mashing buttons on a PS3 controller and the audience clearly hears Pac Man sound effects.

  • High Rollers

    Michael Pina has, as always, a full and thorough analysis to argue for the title of his piece. Even if all it really needed was three letters…

    "Phil Pressey Should Be The Backup Point Guard"


  • hax

    Celtics have the 2nd best average-points-against in the league, only trailing the ridiculously amazing defense of the Pacers. Stevens coach of the year for his underdog team playing good defense!

    • hax

      And Doc's great coaching has the Clippers with last place defense. Yeah, we upgraded.

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