Elfrid Payton makes the Orlando Magic go
"Orlando crushed Milwaukee on the way to 112-96 victory and Elfrid Payton was a huge part of that. Finishing the game with 20 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds and 3 steals, he was the driving force leading Orlando to their win. Sure, Aaron Gordon had the highlight dunk, and Jeff Green dominated the conversation with his performance against young star Giannis Antetokounmpo, but it was Payton who gave Orlando their victory. Payton's importance to Orlando has been a common theme for the season, and much of his career."
When Payton plays well the Magic are unstoppable, but when he's having an off game they tend to fall apart in pretty brutal fashion.
Some of the reasons for this result are pretty obvious. He has more assists, less turnovers and generally just plays better in games where the Magic win which is all very, well, duh. Of course the Magic win more often when their players play well, but small dips are expected. What is not expected are the drastic differences, especially in his scoring numbers. Payton is currently shooting 29 percent from 3-point range this season, but in wins he's shooting 40 percent from deep. His true shooting percentage jumps up to 57.3 percent in wins. In losses, these numbers all drop by 10 percent or more. This isn't the typical dip of someone playing worse in losses. No, this is two exceedingly different players the Magic have to to try and adjust to. The good Payton is who they see in games like their recent loss to the Utah Jazz. The not so good one showed up to the blowout against New Orleans.
However, the bad Payton is showing up less often lately and while the Magic haven't found too many wins as a result, the individual play has been promising. He's arguably playing the best basketball of his career right now which, per Frank Vogel, is lining up quite nicely with an increased role within the team.
"I did not come back to him a few games back in the Clipper game and we weren't able to pull the game out. I grabbed him afterwards and said 'Unless something extreme is happening I'm always gonna come back to you. I'm gonna empower you with this team and to take advantage of it.' He's put together some solid games since," said Vogel after the Milwaukee win.
Payton made sure Vogel didn't regret his decision with 19 points, nine of which came in the fourth quarter, 7 assists and 4 rebounds as they beat the Portland Trail Blazers. He followed that with 28 points, 9 assists and 9 rebounds the very next night against the Utah Jazz. Orlando ended up losing, but the message had become clear. When Payton is going the Magic get going, and that is when they play their best basketball. Of course, it's one thing for Vogel to say it, but Payton's teammates have to buy in as well. They need to trust him.
"My teammates are looking for me," said Payton. "Just finishing at the rim. Just continuing to build off it. Continuing to learn from it. Continue to build that momentum. Teammates continue to trust me more."
Next to Payton throughout all of this has been Aaron Gordon. A potential star in the making, Gordon and Payton have the chance to be a duo the Magic can build around depending on how the two develop. Right now, Gordon gets the attention thanks to his highlight dunks, but he speaks the world of Payton and knows the value he brings to the team when he's at the top of his game.
"He's always been a monster he's tenacious offensively and defensively," said Gordon. "He makes the right play. Defensively he's really good. EP's doing a great job putting the ball in the basket, keeps the floor spaced, it keeps everybody clicking and everybody moving so it's great for us."
Next: Point guards are leading the NBA's scoring boom
As of this moment, the Magic play their worst basketball when Payton is off the court and their best when he is on it. His 3-point percentage has increased with every month of the season, and if he can start knocking down those deep looks when he's open, it forces defenses to stay honest against him. His improvement is noticeable, and with how much the Magic have to rely on him this is a good thing for their future.
Their season so far has been a disappointment, and there are questions if they've gained anything from this rebuild at all. There's no guarantee Payton is going to be their starting point guard of the future, but right now they definitely need him to play like he is.
M=R AGI C=N
Triple double tonight--16, 11, 10
Hell of a game tonight by elfrid
22 points, 14 assists, 14 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks
He also had the triple-double through three quarters.
He now owns the triple double record for the magic
As his shooting improves his whole game has exploded. Opponents can no longer play him soft and his assists skyrocket.
Great to have him repping LOUISIANA aka UL
Another triple-double tonight. 14 points 11 rebounds and 10 assists. He has four this month along with LeBron James, James Harden and Russell Westbrook who has five.