Orlando Magic: Elfrid Payton giving them regrets already?

(Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images)
(Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic sent Elfrid Payton to the Phoenix Suns for a second round pick at the trade deadline. Is that already looking like a bad move?

For the Orlando Magic, the recent trade deadline came and went without much movement from the organization at all. For a team thought to be in the mix for a lot of potential deals, and with seemingly no player off limits outside of Jonathan Isaac, it was ultimately a quiet day.

That was until the hour or so before the deadline passed, when the team surprisingly dealt Elfrid Payton to the Phoenix Suns for a second round draft pick in 2018.

The move was met with … next to no reaction, really. Such is the existence of the Magic right now. They’re a non-factor to all except fans of the team and hardcore NBA followers.

That being said, it did seem like moving Payton, a former lottery pick, was a surprising move. His time with the team was coming to an end. Payton, a restricted free agent this summer, wasn’t the point guard of the future for the franchise that they needed him to be.

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Still, it felt odd giving him up for so little, when the potential was there in the offseason to maybe sign him to a team-friendly deal and have him come off the bench in the future.

There certainly weren’t going to be many other teams trying to sign him up to their cause. Three games into his career with the Suns though, did the Magic make a mistake in moving him when you consider what they got in return?

On the surface, it seems so, although if you dig a little deeper than the results aren’t as favorable to Payton as some might think.

Taking the positives first though, and there’s been a lot to like for the Suns since Payton came on board.

Three games is a small sample size, but in each of those contests before the All-Star break, he has led the team in assists all three times, as well as scoring and rebounding one time each as well.

These are the basic numbers, but to influence a new team in that way so quickly is encouraging. Never was this more evident than in Phoenix’s loss to the Golden State Warriors.

Payton came out even more aggressively than what we had seen in his Orlando days, putting the team on his back to the tune of 16 points and a flawless 7-for-7 shooting from the field in the first quarter.

He slowed down as the game wore on and the Suns were eventually blown out 129-83, but he still finished with a team-high 29 points and five assists. The individual numbers haven’t translated into wins, but with the Suns headed to the draft lottery again this summer, they won’t mind that too much.

Here’s where it gets more interesting — not to mention more worrying — for Magic fans. Here are Payton’s individual numbers so far as a Sun, all of which are career-highs (with career averages beside it).

  • 20.3 PPG (11.2 PPG)
  • 8.7 APG (6.4 APG)
  • 8.3 RPG (4.2 RPG)
  • 60.7 eFG% (47.9 eFG%)
  • 50 3P% (30.9 3P%)
  • 14 FGA (10 FGA)
  • 22.1 Player Efficiency Rating (15.6)

Payton also has one triple-double for the Suns already, after becoming the all-time leader in that category for the Magic during his time there. Again, the sample size is small, but those numbers are impressive, especially if they keep trending in the right direction.

The Player Efficiency Rating (PER) so far is perhaps the best of all, showing that Payton is a positive influence for the team in many areas. It would put him at 24th in the entire NBA in PER right now, just above DeMar DeRozan of the Toronto Raptors (22.07).

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

That won’t last, and when combined with the PER he was posting in Orlando (18.2, also his best mark with the Magic while playing there) it lowers somewhat.

On a team level, however, is where we can start to see the drawbacks of having somebody like Payton running the point for a team on a nightly basis.

The Suns have the second-worst defensive record in the league (117.5) since acquiring Payton. Even more worrisome is the fact they’re rock bottom defensively for the whole year so far, but with a notably better mark (110.6).

Similarly, the Suns have the second-worst offensive rating in the league this season (101.5), but over the last three games are dead last (96.0, four points behind the Chicago Bulls in 29th).

The Magic haven’t fared much better without Payton here though, as they’re 19th for the season offensively (104.6) and 22nd (103.6) since making the trade.

On a personal level, Payton’s offensive rating of 105 with the Suns is just behind the career-high 105.9 he was posting with the Magic, so all appears to be good there.

However, his defensive inabilities are on full display once more in his own rating in this category: a horrific 120.8, miles worse than the 113.6 he was allowing in Orlando (a career-worst until it took an even deeper plunge in Phoenix).

All of which is to say that on the surface, Elfrid Payton is doing some things already that should make the Orlando Magic a bit nervous about letting him go. His basic statistical categories are improving across the board, and he has looked comfortable and confident in his new home.

Beyond that however, the full story can be found, and it is one of a player who is going to make the worst defensive team in the league fall even further back in this category.

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Moving him was fine, we can already see that. It was just getting that second round pick in return that may prove to be the real error, especially if Payton ever comes off the bench and thrives with the Phoenix Suns.