2018-19 salary: $3 million
Status: Unrestricted free agent
Now already five years into his NBA career, Elfrid Payton still remains somewhat of an unknown commodity. While it’s clear his perimeter shooting remains a significant weakness, the 6’4″ Payton still manages to demonstrate the reasons why he was taken No. 10 overall in 2014.
Playing just 42 games last season with the New Orleans Pelicans due to a variety of injuries, Payton averaged 10.6 points, 7.6 assists and 5.2 rebounds in 29.8 minutes per game. As already mentioned, his offensive efficiency was not ideal, returning .434/.314/.743 shooting splits.
Upon entering the league, the following scouting report on the 6’4″ Payton appeared in the highly reputable Draft Express following his three years at Louisiana at Lafayette:
"“Perhaps Payton’s most attractive and likely also his most NBA-ready skill is his defense….Payton has long arms, big hands and solid anticipation skills, which shows up in his ability to get in the passing lanes….The most glaring [weakness] is his outside shot, which is simply not a weapon by any means at this stage, as evidenced by his 26% 3-point and 59% free throw percentages. Opposing defenses regularly sag off him significantly daring him to punish them from the outside, which he’s unable to do at the moment.”"
Last season was a great snapshot of the up-and-down nature of Payton’s career — in particular, the following separate five-game stretches. From Feb. 27-March 6, Payton averaged 7.8 points, 7.6 assists and 7.2 rebounds in 31.8 minutes per game. However, with backcourt partner Jrue Holiday going down with an injury, Payton simply erupted.
From March 10-18, he became just the fifth player in NBA history to post five consecutive triple-doubles, averaging 15.6 points, 12.8 assists and 11.8 rebounds per game. While it came both late in the season and with the Pelicans out of playoff contention, it nonetheless would’ve raised the eyebrows of onlookers around the league.
In terms of a recent comparison, Ricky Rubio, also a free agent, is a worthy option. Now 28, Rubio is coming off a four-year, $55 million deal. Clearly, this would be on the extreme end as it pertains to offers Payton could receive this summer. Considering he’s already played for three teams in five seasons, in addition to a draft-day trade, it’s safe to say the consensus on Payton is still up in the air.
However, with his history-making triple-double streak a very recent memory, his potential upside could earn him a sizable deal in the coming weeks.