Elfrid Payton has solidified himself as one of the best up and coming players in the NBA. While that might seem like an outlandish statement, he’s been arguably the best player on the Orlando Magic. As a result, we must take notice of Payton, and give him the respect he rightfully deserves.
With three seasons in the books, Payton has gotten increasingly better each year. A 2014-15 All-Rookie team member, he’s had his best year as a pro during the 2016-17 campaign.
Averages of 12.7 points and 6.4 assists aren’t sexy. However, Payton has really come into his own as of late. The numbers he’s maintained throughout the course of the season seem a lot better when you account for his recent hot streak.
During a stretch of games from March 13th to April 6th, Payton has recorded double figures in points. In addition, he’s dished out 8 or more assists 8 times. This streak also includes three triple-doubles. This has become regular for Payton.
While nobody will compare Payton to Russell Westbrook, the expectations the Magic had set for their third-year guard have been far surpassed.
One could argue Payton is one of the league’s brightest young stars. Orlando has lacked this since the emergence of Tracy McGrady.
Something must have clicked during the 2016 offseason for Payton. The 2016-17 campaign has seen the Louisiana native shot 39 percentage points higher on jump shot attempts.
You can’t expect Payton to win most improved player off of this one stat, but give him credit for working on a major weakness in his game.
Considering a number of top-tier point guards available in the 2017 NBA Draft, the Magic could very well select someone to challenge Payton for the starting role. It’s an unlikely scenario for the team. He can’t test free agency until after the 2017-18 season, at which point he becomes a restricted free agent.
It’s best for Orlando to give Payton the keys to the team for the foreseeable future. Still improving, he still has a lot of untapped potential.
If the second half of the 2016-17 season is any indication, Elfrid Payton has proven to be a legitimate starter in the NBA.
The Magic have been searching for years to find a franchise cornerstone. With players such as Victor Oladipo gone, Payton should become the face of the organization. He’s got the look ( evident by his signature hair), and a game that has been evolving ever since his rookie year.
While he may never average 25 points, Payton is already a star in the NBA. You might not know a lot about him yet, but this time next year, as the Magic race towards the playoffs, you will.