It seems the Orlando Magic have found their point guard – for the future and present.
Rookie Elfrid Payton posted his second consecutive triple-double in his team’s 111-104 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night. The Louisiana Lafayette product scored 22 points on 10-of-13 shooting while pulling down 10 rebounds and dishing out 10 assists, helping limit Damian Lillard to 18 points on only 6-of-15 from the field in the process. That awesome all-around performance came on the heels of a 15-point, 10-rebound, 12-assist effort versus the Dallas Mavericks two days earlier.
And though it’s Payton’s triple-doubles that have afforded him deserved national acclaim, he’s been playing stellar basketball all month long. The 6-4 floor general is averaging 14.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, 8.8 assists, and 2.1 steals while shooting 48.4 percent in Orlando’s last 10 games, numbers good enough to make him a late-coming challenger to Andrew Wiggins for Rookie of the Year.
Payton would be something close to a shoo-in if he’d played this way all season long, in fact. The problem is that he followed a very encouraging January with substandard performance last month. It won’t matter in the long-run, of course – awards are simply that and nothing more.
What lends more optimism to Payton’s future than potential hardware, anyway, is how much room he still has to improve. The 21 year-old is a flat-out poor shooter from the perimeter and free throw line, but doesn’t have a stroke that needs complete re-tooling. Though he’ll never be a marksman, it’s reasonable to expect Payton to develop into a shooting threat at the very least.
Where he could become elite is at the basket – Payton has long arms, explosive athleticism, and gets wherever he wants on the floor. It takes time for young players to get comfortable finishing around and over NBA big men, though, a reality evidenced by Payton making a poor 49.7 percent from the restricted area. Prowess there will almost surely come, though; players with his combination of size, athleticism, and craft figure it out with ease.
For now, the Magic have a talented, flawed, and impactul young floor general. What Orlando could possess in Payton come several years, his recent play has made clear, is an All-Star.
[Video via GD’s Extra Highlights]