The Orlando Magic came into the 2014 NBA Draft with two lottery picks, the fourth and the 12th overall.
With their fourth pick, they elected to take Arizona’s swingman Aaron Gordon. Gordon was one of the highest rated prospects in the draft, and taking him could potentially be a great move for the Magic.
They also held the 12th pick, and while they may have found a better prospect at No. 4, they couldn’t have made a better move for their franchise at No. 12. Well, maybe not at No. 12, because they selected Croatia’s Dario Saric at No. 12, but his draft rights were then later traded to the Phiadelphia 76ers along with a future first-rounder, and a 2015 second-rounder, for the draft rights to a point guard from Louisiana-Lafayette.
Elfrid Payton is his name, originally drafted by the 76ers with the 10th pick in the draft. Payton, a junior point guard, was one of the high risers heading into the draft.
An electric scorer with a knack for stealing the ball, Payton has all the tools to be a successful guard in this league.
But does he have the potential to succeed on the Magic?
Absolutely. While 10-year NBA veteran and former All-Star Jameer Nelson has played admirably for the Magic over the course of his career, he is now 32 years old and is a free agent after the 2014-15 season. While averages of 12.1 points and 7.0 assists aren’t too bad, it might be best for the Magic to look in a different direction at point guard.
Enter Payton. Orlando went 23-59 in 2013-14, so it’s clear there is serious room for improvement.
One area is their field goal percentage. They ranked 21st in the league in that category, shooting 44.5 percentfrom the field.
Payton, on the other hand, shot an overwhelming .509 from the field with the Ragin’ Cajuns. Elfrid was one of the most efficient players in all of the NCAA last season, especially at the point guard position.
The Magic themselves ranked 29th overall in the offensive rating category last season. Bringing in Payton, who averaged 19.2 points per game his junior season, will bring that stat up immediately.
While Orlando may elect to keep Jameer around for next season, Payton can certainly play off the bench. In fact, it might be even better for a young guard like Elfrid.
Nelson has been one of the most consistent point guards in all of the league for the past 10 seasons, and he might be the best person in the entire league to teach Payton the ways of being an NBA point guard.
Nelson has averaged 5.4 points throughout his career. While that’s not a terrible number, it could be better.
Payton on the other hand, averaged 5.9 dimes last year. Sure, that’s not too much better than Nelson, but college stats are different than NBA stats.
Perennial double-digit dime dropper Rajon Rondo only averaged 4.9 per game in his last year with Kentucky. While that doesn’t necessarily mean that Payton will turn into the passer that Rajon is, it could be a good sign for the future.
Payton has drawn comparisons to Portland’s young star Damian Lillard. They’re both electric scorers from the guard position, both came from smaller schools, and both shot up into the draft lottery.
Payton may never turn into the player that Lillard is, but he certainly has the tools. Orlando is looking to go young, and if Elfrid Payton could translate his NCAA skills into NBA skills, it might be easier to part with Jameer Nelson, and maybe they won’t be drafting in the lottery for too much longer.