With time almost up at the 2018 NBA trade deadline, the Orlando Magic traded Elfrid Payton to the Phoenix Suns for a second round pick.
The Orlando Magic almost got to the 2018 NBA Trade Deadline without making any moves at all, something a large portion of their fanbase were not happy about.
The return? A second round draft pick in 2018 — the second-most valuable pick between Charlotte’s 2018 second-rounder, Memphis’ 2018 second-rounder and Miami’s 2018 second-rounder, per Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. Currently, it’d be the Hornets pick at No. 41.
That’s it. Nothing else. Was Payton worth much more than that?
Admittedly no, his value was higher in Orlando than anywhere else given how some fans still felt he brought something to this team.
But with such little return, why did they make this move at all? It seems the very definition of a panic move, and there are many ways this could come back to haunt them in the future.
There are those who feel that the Magic at least got some sort of return on a player who is a restricted free agent this summer and who could have left them for nothing.
True, but if all it took was a second-rounder to pry him away from the team, then his value around the league was virtually non-existent. By that logic, there was nobody coming in hot with a big offer sheet to sign him during the offseason, especially with so many teams trying to get out from under large contracts.
So the Magic could have retained him, but to a team-friendly deal. Payton was no point guard of the future in Orlando, but he could have had some success running the second unit.
Besides, the team is in the business of losing right now anyway, so why not hold onto Payton for another 30 or so games until season’s end, and then re-evaluate?
Which brings us on to the next point regarding Payton. He’s improved modestly every year he has been with the team. Now, this isn’t likely to be another Victor Oladipo or Tobias Harris case, where the team essentially gives away a player of future All-Star level talent.
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But his 13 points per game, 37.3 percent shooting from deep and his effective field goal percentage of 54.7 percent were all career highs with the team.
That 3-point percentage was particularly interesting. Even though it only came on 1.5 attempts per contest, it had improved significantly from the horrifying 27.4 percent of the previous year.
Smaller, concentrated bursts of Payton’s abilities off the bench would have served the Magic’s second unit much better, but we will never get to see that now.
Other numbers of note for the player were his Player Efficiency Rating of 18.2 with the team, and an offensive rating of 105.9, both career highs.
Payton’s defensive chops had dropped off as early as the beginning of the season, truth be told, and his defensive rating of 113.6 absolutely reflected this.
Still, he helped push the pace for a Magic team that needed that boost to get them up the court quickly on any given night, and contributed to the team having the seventh-fastest pace in the league too..
So while the loss of Payton is going to be met with more cheer than dismay, there were some worrying trends in the numbers that show he had gotten better in many areas.
An interesting quirk too, he also leads the franchise in triple-doubles, despite some of the illustrious players to have worn the pinstriped blue.
The other issue here is what exactly the team can do with a second round pick this summer. It is possible they package it with somebody like Nikola Vucevic and flip it for assets. But should they hold onto it, while they wouldn’t be locked into a contract unlike if it was a first-rounder, they still need to use it wisely.
The new front office, headed by Jeff Weltman and John Hammond, will do a better job than previous general manager Rob Hennigan. It would be impossible not to.
However, the pick still has to be used accordingly. The best-case scenario would be another Wes Iwundu type, as opposed to the Devyn Marbles who have come through the door in years gone by.
Really, this just feels like the team felt they had to do something before the deadline went by, and Payton was the only player the front office could move.
Although Vucevic could very well be dealt this summer, he was always going to be tough to trade because he is still recovering from a broken hand, but should return soon.
While Jonathon Simmons certainly has value to a contender, and a team-friendly deal to boot, they clearly weren’t given the kind of offer worth considering. Either that, or the Cleveland Cavaliers, who made approximately 37 trades, didn’t show an interest in him and that was that.
Which left Elfrid Payton, a player whose time with the team was likely up this summer. But with the chance to bring him back for next to nothing, and only a second-rounder in return, why did they choose to pull the trigger now?