The NBA Trade Deadline is the equivalent of a holiday for basketball junkies like myself. Full disclosure, I wasn’t the very best teacher I could be today. I may have been slightly distracted by the Cavaliers trading away half of their roster, which created some pretty epic GIF’s/Meme’s in the process.
Cleveland wasn’t the only team that made moves at today’s deadline. The Orlando Magic took part in the fun late in the afternoon. I was lucky enough to be around the organization today and thought I would share some of my experience working my first trade deadline.
Happy Trails Elf
The Orlando Magic agreed to trade Elfrid Payton moments before the NBA’s 3 P.M. Trade Deadline Thursday afternoon. Orlando’s former starting point guard, now playing in his fourth season, is headed to the Phoenix Suns.
In exchange for Payton, the Magic are receiving a 2018 second round pick. According to the Orlando Sentinel’s Josh Robbins, the pick Orlando is receiving is the second-most favorable of Memphis, Charlotte, and Miami’s 2018 second round picks.
In the Elfrid Payton trade, the Magic will receive the second-most favorable pick among Charlotte's 2018 second-round pick, Memphis' 2018 second-round pick and Miami's 2018 second-round pick. As the standings are now, that would be Charlotte's pick, 41st overall.— Josh Robbins (@JoshuaBRobbins) February 8, 2018
The locker that formerly belonged to Payton was noticeably empty in the Magic locker room prior to Orlando’s game against the Hawks Thursday night. His nameplate had already been removed; all remnants of Orlando’s former lottery pick in 2014 (10th overall) were gone.
Elfrid Payton’s locker has been cleared out. His nameplate has been removed from above his locker.— O. Pinstriped Post (@OPPMagicBlog) February 8, 2018
“I want to wish Elfrid well,” Magic coach Frank Vogel said Thursday night during his post-game press conference. “I want to thank him for his service here. He really exemplifies who we want our players to be from a character and integrity standpoint, work ethic standpoint, and we wish him nothing but the best.”
Payton’s tenure with the Magic began ominously when then Orlando General Manger Rob Hennigan traded for the Louisiana-Lafayette product on draft night. Hennigan selected Dario Saric 12th overall in ‘14 and then traded him, along with a second round pick in 2015 and a future protected first round pick (which could have come to fruition this year), to the Philadelphia 76ers for Payton.
Payton played over 7,000 minutes and started nearly 200 games for the Magic through his first three seasons in Orlando. He’s averaged over 6 assists per game every year of his career, but his time with the Magic coincided with an abundance of losses. While his shooting efficiency has improved this year, his career 50% true shooting percentage is still well below league-average. Payton has gotten considerably better finishing at the rim (51% his rookie year, 58% his second year, 61% last year, 70% this year), but the team was still a -6.9 per/100 possessions this year when he was on the floor.
Even more concerning is the fact that Payton showed very little improvement on the defensive end over nearly four seasons. Payton regularly looked lost defending pick-and-rolls and often found himself out of position due to unnecessary gambles he took vying for steals.
Payton never materialized into the franchise point guard Rob Hennigan envisioned he would become for the Magic. What makes matters even worse is the fact that Hennigan effectively chose Payton over his former back-court mate, Victor Oladipo. It was apparent pretty early on that a Payton/Oladipo back-court was never going to work, and Hennigan opted to trade Oladipo (and Orlando’s 2016 lottery pick) to Oklahoma City for Serge Ibaka (who was in the last year of his contract) on draft night in June of ‘16.
Elfrid Payton leaves the Orlando franchise 7th all-time in total assists, 3rd in assists per game, 6th in steals per game, and as the organization’s all-time leader in assist percentage (33.8%). Second on the assist percentage list, at 33.7%, is Payton’s former coach - Scott Skiles. Life is pretty funny sometimes.
“It sucks, because I was really close to him,” teammate and friend Mario Hezonja said of Payton being traded. “We were out everyday, out to dinner. Our families are close. But I’m extremely happy for him because (Phoenix) is the right spot for him.”
“Elfrid was like a little brother to me, “ D.J. Augustin said of the departed point guard. “He’s from New Orleans and I’m from New Orleans, and we spent a lot of time together off the court. It’s tough to see him go, but at the same time, the NBA is a business.”
There were some good times (8 triple-doubles) in pinstripes for Payton, there were even more bad times. But I know one thing for sure. It will be a long while before another player comes along that elicits more divisive opinions among Orlando Pinstriped Post community members than Payton did over three-plus seasons.
And secretly, we all will miss that hair. Don’t shake your head, yes you will.
So, now what?
The NBA Trade Deadline has dominated the conversation revolving around the Magic for weeks, and now it has come and gone.
The Magic made just one move, ultimately opting to hold onto assets such as Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier, Mario Hezonja, and Jonathon Simmons.
“We were having conversations with teams constantly,” President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman said of the days leading up to the deadline. “There seems to be (potential) interest, but then deals dissolve or at the last minute a team decides not to do something. This is what happens at this time of year. 99% of the deals you pursue are fruitless, that’s the process.”
Orlando’s new management team of Weltman and John Hammond will have quite a few decisions to make this upcoming off-season about some of the guys remaining on the Magic roster.
Both Nikola Vucevic (2018-’19 at $12.75 million) and Terrence Ross (2018-’19 at $10.5 million) have one more year left on their respective deals. Those reasonably priced contracts should be movable if management finds a deal to their liking, either around the draft or during the free agency period.
Evan Fournier has the longest amount of guaranteed years remaining on Orlando’s books; he’s signed through 2020 with an option year in ‘20-’21. But he’s only 25, the team can easily continue to feel out Fournier’s market next season while also getting above league-average production (for the time being).
The organization will have Shelvin Mack’s contract to work with as next summer’s draft draws closer. Only one million of Mack’s six million dollar contract is guaranteed next season if he’s waived before June 30th. A team looking to clear additional salary heading into free agency can trade for Mack (and then waive him) and potentially pay the Magic with draft compensation for their efforts.
The Magic will also have to make a decision regarding Mario Hezonja. The former 5th overall pick from the 2015 draft will be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end due to Orlando management’s decision to not pick up his fourth-year option. The Magic still own Hezonja’s Bird Rights, which means they can offer him more guaranteed salary than any other team in the league. But will the Magic want to bring Hezonja back? Will Hezonja want to come back?
And there’s always a chance that veterans such as Arron Afflalo and Marreese Speights are waived/bought-out before the end of February. There doesn’t seem to be anything imminent happening on that front, but with veterans on expiring contracts, it’s never out of the question. The Magic have an open roster spot at the moment, so they wouldn’t necessarily need to waive someone just to create an opportunity for someone from the G-League.
In other words, there’s still a lot of work to do (and opportunities to do it) before the organization is faced with (hopefully) the not-so difficult decision of paying Aaron Gordon lots of money. Lots and lots of money.
Trade Deadline Quotes
Frank Vogel, on how the Payton trade impacts the team moving forward: “We become a little bit different. We will go through a little adjustment; Augustin and Mack have played a lot for us this year, our guys are familiar with their styles of play. I don't think it will be too big of an adjustment.”
Hezonja on whether he thought he was going to be traded today: “Not at all, I thought nothing (of it). The team didn’t go for my option, but not at all. I was sleeping, so trust me - I wasn’t worried about it.”
Evan Fournier, on D.J. Augustin starting at point guard and the Payton trade: “When you spend four years with a guy, it’s tough to see him go. Especially when a guy comes in as a rookie, you see him grow and evolve. We’re going to miss him. I’m going to miss him for sure, but we have to move forward now. Now we have D.J. who’s a veteran player and knows how to play; very good shooter. I think it’s going to spread the floor for us and he’s going to create good things.”
Hezonja, on life with Augustin and Mack as the primary point guards on the roster: “Coach has shifted a little towards them (recently), we all got used to Shelvin and D.J. playing more minutes. They’re going to take more shots, they’re going to be more involved, but it’s not a big deal.”
Weltman, on what prompted the Magic to trade Elfrid Payton: “We had to weigh the marketplace this summer, what Elfrid could command and where we are (and if that fits into our plans moving forward). Elfrid is a good player and we wish him the best. He gave us everything he had, and sometimes those interests just don’t align.”
Vogel, on when he was aware that Elfrid Payton was going to be traded: “Yeah, it was about 3:00 today, that’s when I heard about it.”
Weltman, when asked about the value of a second round pick in return for Elfrid Payton: “We were concerned about locking ourselves in financially. It (the trade) was fair because the league and the market deemed it to be fair.”