Elfrid Payton has had an up and down career with the Orlando Magic. It seemed the 10th overall pick of 2014 had enormous defensive potential at first. However, Orlando’s hopes of a defensive star have worked out dreadfully. Payton’s off-ball play hasn’t developed. His ability to be an effective part of the defense is just poor. For that reason, the Magic should explore trade options to make room for another point guard.
Making the Case to Trade Elfrid Payton
It’s undebatable that Payton’s 3 and a half seasons in Orlando haven’t been what he or the team hoped. When drafted, everyone knew Payton would probably never be an offensive all-star. The potential was all in his defensive promise. He won the Lefty Driessel Award as the best defender in his junior year of college. Plus, some of his physical factors indicated he could become a top-tier defender.
However, none of that came to be. He is statistically one of the worst defensive starters in the league. That’s the main issue with the Texas-born guard. Payton’s defensive weakness causes too many problems for the Magic. There are a few areas that really highlight this.
Payton’s Defensive Shortcomings
Several factors go into a team’s defensive ability. It can be hard to blame defensive woes on any single player. For instance, things like scheme and team-wide rotation are multiplayer factors. However, the Magic struggle on pick-and-rolls in particular.
Other teams score pick-and-roll points on Orlando at an incredible level. On average, Payton gives up 48 more points per possession than the rest of the league when he’s the primary defender. Worse yet, he’s the leagues worst defender of pick-and-rolls by a wide margin. Even with a statistically average point guard, the Magic’s defense would upgrade to at least the top half of the league for just that type of play.
Moreover, Payton has shown little improvement in other areas of his play. Clearly, his pick-and-roll numbers indicate things like poor footwork. It could also be a lack of understanding defensive schemes. Payton doesn’t seem to know when to move out to cover shots from range and when to stay in to guard the paint. He takes a lot of ill-advised risks that often end up with opposing teams scoring. Orlando’s 3-point defense is ranked 27th in the league. The play of a point guard is critical to that particular stat.
What Can Orlando Do About It?
Orlando has dealt with several injuries all season long. The playoff hopes have been over for a while. Orlando is shopping Payton and several others to help recover for next season and onward. But who will replace Payton if he were to be traded?
Orlando’s new front office has publicly stated that they aren’t necessarily looking for lottery picks in exchange for whoever they’d trade. This is the opposite of what they should do. Orlando currently has a small, questionable core. Jonathan Isaac and Aaron Gordon are the only realistic pieces for Orlando to build around. Unless they draft their core, they only delay the rebuild. Trading for veterans will only push them up to being middle of the pack at best. That in mind, if Orlando trades Payton, they shouldn’t try to replace him with another point guard.
Payton does have his upsides. He can be an explosive ball mover and can drive pretty well due to his size. Plus, his playmaking skills are borderline elite. His passing and ability to drive would make him great for a contender looking for a strong guard to fortify their bench.
What Orlando will want in return is the question. Payton is most likely worth a late draft pick and perhaps a role player. Orlando could toy with moving their protected first-round pick (via Oklahoma City) as well. Regardless, Orlando should focus on trying to get a higher round pick in exchange for Payton.
Orlando has a myriad of options of what to do at the trade deadline this year. Rumors of trading for Kemba Walker have floated around. This year’s draft boasts one of the best point guards in NCAA history in Trae Young. Orlando could also look to free agency in the summer if they choose. Ultimately, Orlando’s best option should be looking to replace Payton through the draft. What they do with him by the trade deadline will be their most important step.
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