Elfrid Payton had a strong finish to the 2017 season. The Orlando Magic finished the season with a modernized roster. The new look team helped bring out some good elements in Payton’s game. He even had triple-doubles with this new team. However, Payton has struggled to prove he is worth giving a major extension to after this season. There could be a new Magic point guard next year.
Orlando Magic Need a New Point Guard in 2018
So far this season, there is only so much to go off of to evaluate Payton due to a hamstring injury. His absence was felt as Orlando played poorly during that stretch. However, since his return, his play has not improved.
Payton’s Ball Control
He has struggled with some poor turnovers since returning from injury. This is especially bad because his strengths are tailored around moving the ball. When the point guard was drafted, the hope was that he would develop into a defensive guard with strong passing skills. He has shown that before, but only in flashes. This was a minor risk because scouts never predicted he would develop into a strong shooter.
Currently, Payton is averaging almost 3 turnovers a game, the worst number of his career so far. Despite the season still being young, it is hard to say this will change drastically. Payton is not improving in some of the areas he was drafted to excel in.
Payton’s Defense Has Not Developed
Another strength of the Magic guard before being drafted was his defense. At the time, the Orlando roster was being built for a heavy defensive style. Drafting Payton despite his sub-par shooting skills made decent sense. However, his defensive prowess has not quite come to fruition in his 4th NBA season.
Through 21 games, Elfrid currently has a defensive points saved score of -3.89. A big reason for this is because the team as a whole has done a poor job of guarding the perimeter. As a defensive minded guard, Payton should be doing better. While a score of -3.89 is not terribly poor, his neutral offensive points added score of 0 is not enough to make up for it.
Has Payton’s Shooting Improved Enough?
Through 4 years in the NBA, Payton has had a slowly but steadily improving shot. However, he is still shooting below of what is expected of the modern NBA point guard. So far this season he is shooting roughly 48%, which is actually good. However, he takes fewer attempts than the average NBA point guard. He also tends to shoot closer to the basket, preferring to drive in instead of take jump-shots. While his shooting percentage is consistent with his averages from last year (47%), to say he has improved is a bit of a stretch.
Elfrid Payton's numbers are pretty impressive, all in all. pic.twitter.com/W4puuOQvug
— David Morrow (@_DavidMorrow) September 6, 2017
Where Elfrid makes up for his shooting has always been his play making. Simply put, his teammates are better when he is on the court. But with a shooting game that has much to be desired, his passing ability is not able to compensate. This is particularly true because of his turnover issue early on in this season. To sum it up, Payton needs to improve his shooting ability. Or at least cut his hair.
Who Will Be the Next Magic Point Guard?
This is definitely the tricky question. It is difficult to say what Payton would even demand of a new contract. Despite his career highs in points and 3-point shooting last year, giving a max contract to an old-fashion guard may not be wise. Especially if it digs too deep into Aaron Gordon‘s next contract. Payton is worth keeping around if he agrees to a shorter term, team-friendly contract.
What would be better is if the Magic were able to find a better point guard elsewhere. Perhaps they should have made a better attempt at trading for Eric Bledsoe? Maybe drafting a point guard in the summer will be the right decision. It is far, far too early to be looking at mock drafts. That said, Alabama’s Collin Sexton and Duke’s Trevon Duval both look good. The Magic point guard could be anyone in 2018, including Payton. However, if the draft is good enough, it may be time for Orlando to move on.
LOS ANGELES, USA – JANUARY 08 :Elfrid Payton of Orlando Magic reacts during a NBA game between Los Angeles Lakers and Orlando Magic at Staples Center in Los Angeles, USA on January 08, 2017. (Photo by Mintaha Neslihan Eroglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)