The NBA’s pre-draft process is unclear due to COVID-19, but Payton Pritchard isn’t concerned.
"They announced that there will not be any draft workouts, so they will mostly go off game films and calling guys and stuff like that," the Oregon senior point guard said. "That will probably work in my favor off my body of work this year."
Pritchard is back at his parents’ house in West Linn where he notes that he’s getting home-cooked meals to maintain a healthy diet. He’s got access to a couple of gyms and a weight room and he’s also been running hills and working on ballhandling drills as his social-media followers have seen.
"I look at it this way, you have this time to make a jump," Pritchard said. "During this time, a lot of people are not doing anything so those that are doing things can get an edge on their opponent. The mindset I am taking into this is to work on my weaknesses and better myself so that when we are ready to play, people will notice that I took another stride in my game."
Confidence has never been a concern for Pritchard, who won four state titles in high school and helped Oregon reach the Final Four as a freshman. He capped his career as a consensus all-American and was named the top point guard in the country.
Pritchard declared for the draft after his junior season and worked out for NBA teams, but returned to the Ducks for his senior season when he averaged 20.5 points, 5.6 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game to earn Pac-12 player of the year honors.
"That did so much for me," Pritchard said of last year’s predraft process. "That built my confidence and I understood what I took from going through that process. That led me to go into this year knowing what I had to improve upon and what it would take and I did that."
The NBA draft is slated for June 25, but could be pushed back if the league resumes games before that time. Pritchard seems certain to be selected, likely in the second round.
NBADraft.net lists Pritchard as the No. 51 prospect, but has him going No. 42 to Sacramento. The Athletic has Pritchard going No. 48 to Golden State. CBS Sports ranks him as the No. 46 prospect and Bleacher Report puts him at No. 49.
Pritchard, who hired UO grad Greg Lawrence of the Wasserman group as his agent, would have received an invitation to the NBA Combine next month, but that event is expected to be canceled unless the draft is postponed. Shams Charania of The Athletic reported Monday that the NBA is allowing franchises to conduct virtual meetings with prospects for up to four hours, but cannot conduct live or virtual workouts.
"For me, it is going to be about how you handle conversations," said Pritchard, who has conducted hundreds of media interviews dating back to his freshman year in high school.
Pritchard will also get a glowing recommendation from UO coach Dana Altman, who has sent eight players to the NBA in the past three years.
Pritchard leaves Oregon as the school’s all-time leader in assists (659), wins (105) games played (144) and games started (140). He ranks second at UO in career steals (211) and 3-pointers (288) and is fourth with 1,938 career points.
"As I look back over the young men that I have been fortunate enough to work with, competitiveness is one trait that really separates a lot of good players and Payton is a competitor," Altman said. "I’ve been doing this for a long time and he’s in the top 10 of competitors throughout a 40-year span for me. That is one characteristic that I think will continue to separate him as he moves on."
Pritchard has been giving fans a view of his quarantine life on Twitter, including a between-the-legs dribbling drill that generated more than 500,000 views and led plenty of people to post their own video trying to duplicate the drill. A stationary dribbling routine attracted nearly 100,000 more viewers.
"I was just putting content out there because there is no sports now so people are wanting to see things," Pritchard said. "I think this is the perfect time to show people what I am doing with my time and different drills I have been doing to interact with people. Obviously, the Figure 8 exploded and people loved it.
"If I knew that, I would have put it out there a long time ago because I have been doing that for years. A lot of people have asked about the ball-handling routine so I showed people what I do on a daily basis. … Seeing people interact and try something out of their comfort zone that they might not be that great at was awesome. I have been trying to interact and respond back to people when they post things. It has been fun to see."