Position: Point Guard
Weight: 170 pounds
NBA Comparison: Jeff Teague, Atlanta Hawks
Due to Damian Lillard‘s rise from a small-school sensation to the 2012-13 Rookie of the Year, everyone is looking for the next under-the-radar star to emerge. In 2013-14, the player with the best shot at making that same leap is another 6’3″ point guard from a school that’s not often associated with basketball lore.
This time around, it’s Elfrid Payton of Louisiana-Lafayette.
Payton stands at 6’3″ and 170 pounds with a 6’7″ wingspan. He’s one of the most dynamic playmakers in the country, using his speed and size to dominate in transition, slash in the half court and facilitate in any faze of the game. Unfortunately, he’s also a very poor three-point jump shooter.
In turn, there will be the inevitable comparisons to Rajon Rondo. Shooting stroke aside, however, the most fitting upside comparison is Jeff Teague of the Atlanta Hawks.
Much like Teague, Payton is a menace in the passing lanes and is a dangerous player when driving the lane and rising up to finish at the rim. While it may have taken Teague time to find his jumper in the NBA, he’s currently averaging 17.4 points and 8.1 assists, and showing why the Hawks have placed so much faith in him.
If Payton were a freshman at a major program, he’d likely be a lottery pick due to an acknowledgement of that upside. Unfortunately, he isn’t a freshman at a major program. He’s a junior at ULL.
Draft Stock: Second Round
As it presently stands, Payton is likely to come off of the board during the second round of the 2014 NBA draft. Due to the fact that he’s a junior, he’s an afterthought when it comes to the lottery portion of the selection process. As a recruit from a small school, he’s thus pushed to a borderline first-rounder, at best.
It doesn’t help that Louisiana Lafayette last reached the NCAA Tournament in 2005.
Fortunately, Payton has every tool necessary to turn heads during pre-draft workouts. He not only finishes creatively at the rim, but Payton is able to throw down ferocious dunks that keep opposing defenses honest. Paired with excellent size and his status as one of the best facilitators in the country, he could be a first round pick.
Seven games into the 2013-14 season, Payton is averaging 20.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 2.9 steals per contest. In a test against the No. 20 Baylor Bears, Payton stepped up with 29 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and two steals. That shouldn’t be too surprising.
In 2012-13, Payton finished the season with averages of 15.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 2.4 steals. This displays just how well he’s learned how to use his body, and at the next level, his ability to slash, defend and distribute will provide him with the opportunity to earn a roster spot.
The development of a jump shot will determine just how much upside Payton possesses.