Who Is Elfrid Payton, and Does He Fit Well with the Orlando Magic?

Does the UL-Lafayette point guard have what it takes to bring the Magic back to relevancy?

Elfrid Payton is the guy no one saw play, even though he played college ball in the States. He says he’s the best defensive player in the draft (don’t tell Aaron Craft, and he’s got length (6’3”), quick hands (2.3 SPG) and explosiveness in the open court. He intends to be the most famous Ragin Cajun since James Carville.

But Payton won’t be taking his talents to South Philly, like we initially thought. Just 12 minutes after being drafted by the Sixers, Payton was dealt to Disney World for the number 12 pick, Dario Saric, and future picks.

So where does he fit into the Orlando puzzle? Well, they’ve been active the past few weeks. They traded consensus top six shooting guard Arron Afflalo for the crafty young Frenchman Evan Fournier and the 56th overall pick. They scooped Aaron Gordon with the fourth pick, and they’ve got youth and cap room filling out their lineup card.

Last season, the Magic had one of the youngest starting lineups in the league with Nikola Vucevic, Victor Oladipo, Tobias Harris and Maurice Harkless all playing significant minutes, yet they played at a league average pace. Their defense was so-so, and their offense was terrible. Here are some of last season’s important team stats and where the Magic finished in the league.

Off. RatingDef. RatingPace3FG %FG %
League Rank29th16th15th20th22nd

They scored less than 102 points per 100 possessions largely because of poor shooting. They didn’t push the rock, and they didn’t shoot that many three-pointers. To boot, they drafted two of the worst shooting prospects in the lottery, and traded away their most competent offensive weapon. If I’m a Magic fan, I’m a little perplexed, to be honest.

But enough with the Magic’s woes; let's examine how Payton will fit in. He’ll likely slot in at point with Oladipo playing mostly off the ball. The two will trade off probing opposing defenses and creating offense with high pick-and-roll to drive and finish or drive and kick sets. Payton was second among all D1 players last year in free throw attempts. He can create for himself, and he can take contact. That always translates at the next level, but Payton needs to learn how to shoot - he only hit 60% of his free throws and less than 30 % of his jump shots in the Sun Belt last season.

On defense, the two (Oladipo and Payton) will wreak havoc on some opposing backcourts with their lateral agility and athleticism. Add in Aaron Gordon’s NCAA leading defensive win shares last season, and you can expect the Magic to leap into the top 10 in defensive efficiency.

The verdict: if Payton and Aaron Gordon learn to shoot, they’ll be cornerstones of a successful Magic franchise for years. But the build up will be slow, and the offense will remain amongst the bottom feeders at least until 2016. Watch for them to push the pace and get all their young talent involved next season.