With the 12th pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, the Orlando Magic selected Dario Saric, who was then immediately traded to
Philadelphia for the 10th pick, Elfrid Payton. Who is Elfrid Payton? He’s a 6-foot-3 point guard who hails from Louisiana-Lafayette, and that’s about where the knowledge of the Ragin’ Cajun ends. Payton caught the eye of NBA scouts and basketball fans with his breakout performance against Creighton in the NCAA Tournament. Though Louisiana-Lafayette didn’t win, Elfrid Payton led the Ragin’ Cajuns in scoring with 24 points. He filled up the stat sheet pulling down eight rebounds, dishing out three assists, coming up with three steals, and rejecting two shots.
His demeanor on the court is Tracy McGrady esque, but his play is reminiscent of former Kentucky Wildcat and current Boston Celtic, Rajon Rondo. Is it possible the Magic have the next Rajon Rondo? Below are the last year college stats of Rajon Rondo and Elfrid Payton.
Elfrid Payton: 19.2 PTS, 5.9 AST, 2.3 STL, 6.0 TRB, 0.6 BLK, .509 FG%, .259 3P%
Rajon Rondo: 11.2 PTS, 4.9AST, 2.0 STL, 6.1 TRB, 0.1 BLK, .482 FG%, 0.5 3P%
If we look at Rajon Rondo and Elfrid Payton’s last year college stats side-by-side, we see right away Payton scored more points per game and dished out more dimes per game. The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Rondo is his struggles shooting the ball. Even though Rondo struggles with shooting that doesn’t seem to hinder his ability to get buckets. Even though Rondo struggles shooting he’s still an NBA All-Star. He struggles shooting, but he’s still an NBA champion. Though shooting is an important skill in the NBA, Rajon Rondo has found a way to excel without being a “shooter.” Elfrid Payton also struggles to shoot the basketball, but shouldn’t let that define his career.
Looking at college highlights from both Payton and Rondo, the biggest similarity they have on the offensive end is how their offense is generated. They both score most of their points off of transition and pushing the basketball. What helps Rondo and Payton get into transition and relentlessly attack the basket is their quickness with the ball. They both have a superfluous amount of moves with the ball in their hand, and have no problem finishing with either the left or the right hand.
They both struggled in college when it came to initiating offense in the half court. Just because I said struggle in the half court doesn’t mean they can’t score. They both attack the basket with reckless abandon, which causes defenses to collapse on them. When defenses are focused on Rondo and Payton it opens up passing lanes where they can display their super-human court vision. When teams take away the driving lanes, they both wield one of the deadliest weapons in the NBA, a mid-range floater. Payton displayed the floater a few times against Creighton, and we all know just how reliable Rondo’s floater is.
The comparisons of Elfrid Payton and Rajon Rondo don’t stop on the offensive end, but also carry over to the defensive end. We can see in their college stats they both averaged over two steals per game. Rondo and Payton both have quick hands, and show great defensive awareness. They’re seemingly always in the right place at the right time, and you can almost always count on them to come up with a big steal, or big play in general on the defensive end.
So with Elfrid Payton being compared to Rajon Rondo, what can we expect from the Magic rookie’s opening year? Well, if Payton is Rajon Rondo 2.0 then his rookie year could look a lot like this:
Rajon Rondo 2006-07: 6.4 points, 3.8 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game; 41.8 FG%, 20.7 3PT FG%, 64.7 FT%
Well, those numbers may not be very promising on the surface, you need to keep in mind that the ’06-’07 the Celtics were a terrible team, relying on Paul Pierce to score many of their points when he was healthy. This year the Magic won’t be the best team in the NBA, but Elfrid Payton will have more scoring opportunities in a young, run-and-gun offense. Rondo also improved light-years in his sophomore year, upping his scoring to over 10 points and his assists up to over five per game.
The benefit of having such a young team with no expectations is Elfrid Payton will be able to blossom at his own pace. He’ll find his niche with the Orlando Magic, and could prove to be one of the best players out of this year’s draft, and one of the best point guards the Magic have had in a long time.