Elfrid makes Zach Lowe's bad list


8. Elfrid Payton's wild gambles A frustrating exercise: figuring out why the Magic have sunk like a stone on defense -- even before this recent wave of injuries -- after a promising start. It can't all be the absence (until this week) of Jonathan Isaac. The dude is a rookie who has logged just 255 minutes. They don't have any blatantly lazy, comatose defenders. Even Nikola Vucevic has improved his rim protection, though only when he plays at top intensity. Vucevic at even 85 percent effort transforms into a liability, fast. They don't foul, allow an alarming number of offensive boards, or hemorrhage points in transition. Only 29.8 percent of opponent shots have come from deep, second-lowest in the league. This might be a case of several so-so defenders adding up to something less than so-so -- and something much worse on bad, low-effort nights. Offenses have a foot or so of extra breathing room -- wider openings for pocket passes, longer runways for guards. They are comfortable. One culprit: Elfrid Payton just kind of roams around doing whatever the hell he wants. Payton has the length and athleticism to be a help-and-recover menace. Still: It is really hard to play free safety in the NBA. You have to think one step ahead of the offense -- to know playbooks and individual tendencies so well that when you gamble, you are almost counting cards. Payton isn't doing this. He floats without any clear aim. He chases birds, losing focus on both the ball and his man. He'd be better off staying attached.

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