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Frankel’s 2014-15 per 36 projections
After not taking one of the expected choices — Dante Exum or Marcus Smart — with the No. 4 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, it became clear the Magic were targeting late-rising point guard Elfrid Payton with their second lottery pick. The Oladipo-as-a-point guard experiment was nice, and probably helped his development, but there was a consensus that Orlando needed a permanent solution at the point.
Payton hung around the 20s on draft boards for most of the college basketball season, but his stock started rising around March Madness and the NBA Draft Combine, and eventually mock drafts projected him as a lottery pick. There are a few players like this in each draft (Damian Lillard comes to mind) and it’s interesting to look at why they rise and what makes them appealing that wasn’t evident earlier in the season.
A lot of it with Payton probably comes down to him going to a mid-major school (Louisiana-Lafayette). Scouts gained a better appreciation of his skills once they spent more time watching him after his season was over.
Payton’s skill-set also fits into the type of team the Magic are trying to build. Most of the Magic’s recent player acquisitions have been focused on defense, and that’s Payton’s most NBA-ready skill. He’s tall for a point guard at 6-foot-4, and long-armed as well, posting a 3.5 percent steal rate in college. While he lacks the strength of Smart or the dexterity of other smaller guards, Payton’s a complete, if not spectacular package on the defensive end. He also rebounded at a very high rate on both the offensive and defensive ends in school. That could just be him dominating lesser competition, but there’s no way it’s a bad thing.
On the offensive end, Payton played a huge role in college. He used 25.2 percent of his team’s possession while on the floor and had a 33.1 assist rate. He’s not a single-faceted “pure” point guard or scoring point guard — he melds both skills well. He’ll probably create less in the NBA, with better players on his team, and pass more than he did in college. His aforementioned height comes in handy there, in seeing over defenders and picking out the right passes.
Payton’s scoring game was largely drive-based at ULL, and he shares the trait of poor shooting with draft classmate Aaron Gordon. He’s not abnormally athletic either, instead using his length to finish around the rim. How well he’ll be able to score while surrounded by NBA athletes is still a big question mark for him.
Payton is younger than his junior standing at Louisiana-Lafayette may suggest: he’s still only 20 (two years younger than Victor Oladipo). All in all, it’s clear that he’s the heir apparent to the Orlando point guard position and will have plenty of time to grow into that role.