Elfrid Payton is a Darkhorse Candidate to Win Rookie of the Year
With the offseason in full swing, there’s already been plenty of transactions made by the Orlando Magic that have caused fans to wonder what direction the franchise is truly headed.
At first it appeared they were destined for a complete youth movement, trading their leading scorer Arron Afflalo followed by the waiving of 10-year veteran Jameer Nelson.
That is… until they decided to make a few surprising signings in free agency weeks later, hauling in both Channing Frye and Ben Gordon to hefty deals, causing a mixture of both praise and criticism alike.
One move that has found more acceptance than any other decision so far has to be the trade on draft night for floor general Elfrid Payton.
The 6’4″ point guard wasn’t a household name during his collegiate days at Louisiana-Lafayette, however his unique blend of size and athleticism were enough to have him rise up on draft boards rather quickly, surpassing stars like Shabazz Napier and Tyler Ennis.
Of course this brings to mind another mid-major star that flourished from day 1 in the NBA, ala Damian Lillard of the Portland Trailblazers, who flew under-the-radar despite posting gawdly numbers at Weber State University.
And while Payton may still be years away from reaching the projected Rajon Rondo like ceiling given to him by several scouts, he’s already shown plenty of promise in the Orlando Summer League in just a few games.
Take his second game with the Magic, finishing with a stat line of 12 points, 9 assists and 8 rebounds.
While these numbers may not scream superstar, Payton showed that he’s not only a superb passer but also an impressive rebounder for a guy that’s nearly half a foot shorter than the average big man.
What’s more important though is how he was able to penetrate inside and break down defenses with his slashing ability, scoring all 12 of his points inside the paint.
Now before you go bashing his level of competition, just understand that I’m well aware of the fact that the rigors of the summer league compared to the regular season are almost on an entirely different spectrum.
As of now, Payton still has much to prove before he’s truly considered a sure thing for the Magic.
But with a gaping hole at the starting point guard position and currently no other true floor general on the roster, this kid has a huge opportunity to make noise in his rookie season if he can successfully adapt at the NBA level.
One of the major keys to his prosperity will be whether or not his skilled driving ability will translate to more easy buckets inside and plenty of passing opportunities.
If not, it could be a tough adjustment period where teams will be able to hold him out on the wings, taking away the bread and butter of his offensive arsenal which is mainly inside of the perimeter.
Although other top-tier rookies like Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Nerlens Noel are all slated to be frontrunners for this year’s rookie of the year award, Payton is one name that should be on fans’ radars given the huge opportunity he has to flourish.
“I always had a chip on my shoulder coming from a small school, so that just makes it a little bit bigger… I think I’m definitely ready to handle it [NBA], of course there’s going to be some challenges but overall I know I’m ready to do it.”
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