Orlando Pintriped Post kicks off its series of player evaluations with a look at the Orlando Magic's point guards, Elfrid Payton and Luke Ridnour.
With so many teams in the NBA having dominant point guards, the Magic desperately needed to find their man to run the point for the next, at the very least, next four years. After selecting high-flying combo forward Aaron Gordon with the fourth pick in last June's NBA draft, the Magic set their eyes on a scrappy, young point guard from Louisiana-Lafayette named Elfrid Payton. Payton, who played with Gordon on a under-19 USA team the previous summer, was acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for the Magic's 12th pick, Dario Saric, and two future picks. The price for the wild-haired rookie was steep, but so far it seems to have been worth it.
Of the 15 players to play in a game for the Magic this season, only one played all 82 games. That player? Payton, who became the first Magic rookie since Dwight Howard in 2004/05 to appear in all 82 games. While that was an impressive accomplishment for a player who hadn't played more than 35 games his three years in college, it's what he did on the court that impressed many.
Elfrid Payton by the numbers
|Per 36 Minutes||10.6||5.0||7.7|
Looking at Payton's numbers, one thing clearly stands out: his poor shooting, which was a hot topic all season. Even though he lacks a reliable shot outside of five-to-eight feet from the basket, Payton showed a willingness and confidence to shoot the ball more from the outside as the season wore on. He also noted that his shooting is an area he would be working on this summer, and that he could seek help from shooting coach Dave Love, who has worked with Gordon previously.
Poor shooting aside, Payton put together some very impressive performances during his rookie season. In March, Payton blew through the competition, averaging 13.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 8.4 assists per game. He also posted back-to-back triple-doubles in games against the Dallas Mavericks and Portland Trail Blazers. The feat made Payton the only Magic player in their 26-year history to post back-to-back triple-doubles, and made him the first rookie to do so in 18 years. Needless to say, March was a successful month for the rookie, who had shown signs at the end of February of potentially hitting the dreaded "rookie wall."
The 6-foot-3 point guard showed an ability to get to the rim with ease, and once he got there, crafty skills to make tough, contested shots. The rookie was also able to show off his tenacious defense, finishing the season averaging a team-high-tying 1.7 steals per game, while finishing with the second-most defensive win shares (2.3) and fourth-best defensive rating (107).
While Payton was one of the brightest spots for the Magic this season, that was not the same case for back up point guard Luke Ridnour. Ridnour, an 11-year veteran, struggled to get on the floor consistently for much of the season, and even when he did, had very little impact.
Luke Ridnour by the numbers
|Per 36 Minutes||9.9||3.6||5.1|
His numbers across the board are underwhelming, and considering the amount of time he actually saw, shouldn't be a surprise. When Orlando signed Ridnour, it was thought that he would be a calming influence for the Magic's second unit, and someone who could help mentor Payton as he adjusted to the NBA.
With a team option left on his contract, it would be safe to assume that Ridnour most likely won't be back with the team. Reports have said that Ridnour could consider retirement, and after an 11-year career, and with four children, it would come as no surprise if he hangs up his sneakers.
Overall the Magic got some good play out of their point guards this season. Payton seems poised to build off of his strong rookie season and develop into one of the better, more tenacious point guards in the league, while Ridnour could be riding off into the sunset.