One trend which has emerged as the Orlando Magic's season has drawn to a close: the team excels when rookie point guard Elfrid Payton curbs his turnovers. Perhaps that's an easy conclusion to draw--pro hoops team better on offense when lead playmaker doesn't give possessions to its opponent--but it's the degree to which Payton's ball control improves Orlando which opens eyes.
In the Magic's last five games--the last three of which Orlando won--the Louisiana-Lafayette product has dished 50 assists to just 13 turnovers in 194 minutes, coming to per-game averages of 10, 2.6, and 38.8, respectively. Those numbers translate into a Pure Point Rating--an improved version of assist-to-turnover ratio which accounts for minutes played and counts turnovers more harmful than assists are helpful--of 10.5, the mark of an elite floor general.
It's one thing when a player tallies good numbers; it's quite another when those numbers translate into team success, as Payton's do. In that five-game stretch, the Magic's offense has scored 110.7 points per 100 possessions with Payton on the floor. Over the course of the entire season, that offensive rating would lead the league. As it is, it bests Orlando's own overall mark of 99.8 by a wide margin, and Payton's season-long mark of 101.9.
Regardless of what one thinks of Orlando's winning games this late in the season, with NBA Draft Lottery ping-pong balls--and, by extension, the team's chances of adding another impact player to its core--hanging in the balance, no one would argue Payton's growth as a playmaker hurts the team's long-term future. We'll see if he can continue his strong finish to the season when the Magic return to action Friday.
The author consulted NBA.com/stats in researching this story.