Elfrid Payton excited about Frank Vogel, Orlando Magic’s future

Mar 29, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic guard Elfrid Payton (4) drives to the basket as Brooklyn Nets guard Shane Larkin (0) defends during the first quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 29, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic guard Elfrid Payton (4) drives to the basket as Brooklyn Nets guard Shane Larkin (0) defends during the first quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Elfrid Payton was at the center of controversy when the Orlando Magic and Scott Skiles parted way. He says he is excited for the next opportunity.

Whether he wanted to or not, Elfrid Payton was put at the center of the Orlando Magic’s coaching turmoil this offseason.

When Scott Skiles resigned, the reports came out pretty quickly  that there was a disagreement about personnel. And centered on Elfrid Payton, the Magic’s second-year point guard.

There is a lot rolling around now after Payton’s difficult sophomore season. And questions are being raised about whether Orlando Magic general manager Rob Hennigan is right to believe in Payton or whether Scott Skiles was allegedly right the Magic should move on from Payton or be open to a new starting point guard.

A new coach represents a new beginning then for Payton as he enters a critical third year with the team looking for a Playoff berth yet again.

Payton spoke to Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders and said he was excited for the new hire:

"“I’m pretty excited,” Payton said of Vogel coaching the Magic. “I trust Rob, so whatever he’s with, I’m with. … Coach and I spoke briefly. Everybody [on the team] seems pretty excited about the hire.”"

This is obviously an exciting time for the Magic with Frank Vogel coming in. It is a new beginning, but not entirely. Vogel, like Skiles, will bring a defensive focus and accountability, but with a different approach and demeanor perhaps. Vogel is not known as someone who screams at his players like Skiles.

But the drive to win should certainly be the same.

The important thing for the Magic right now is for the players on the roster to continue to improve. That is the only way for the team itself to get better. Regardless of who is coach.

Payton certainly had an up-and-down season for the Magic last year. He averaged 10.7 points per game and 6.4 assists per game. His scoring increased as did his shooting to a still poor, but more respectable 45.6 percent effective field goal percentage. Payton still has a long way to go.

But Payton did struggle fitting into Scott Skiles’ more structured scheme. The offense called for less pick and rolls and more ball and player movement. It needed shooters to spread the floor and players who could work off the ball. Payton struggled in that aspect.

Perhaps Skiles’ acerbic tone and demanding style did not click with Payton. It was clear from watching him that his defense lagged — his defensive win shares dropped from 2.3 to 1.7 despite the Magic’s improvement on defense and increase in wins and his defensive box plus-minus fell from 0.8 to -0.5. Payton went from a net-positive defensive player to a net-negative one.

This next year of his career will be a big one as the Magic have to start making contract decisions on some of their young assets.

Payton told Kennedy he intends to be in the gym all summer working to improve his jumper — his field goal percentage did improve both in general and from beyond the arc. There is still plenty of room for growth, just like there is for everyone on the roster, as Payton told Kennedy.

"“I think everybody just has to continue to improve. If you look at our team, pretty much everybody got better [last year],” Payton said. “Vic got better, Aaron got better, Evan got better, I got better. We just have to continue to do that and I think we’ll be on the right path.“I think our chemistry level is really high. I know where guys like the ball and what they don’t like. I think our chemistry level is high and if we stay together, it’ll only continue to get better.”"

Undoubtedly Payton will be important to everything the Magic do moving forward as the team’s point guard. His relationship with Vogel and learning a third offense in three years as a professional is going to be another difficult challenge for him.

Vogel seems much more flexible with adapting his style to personnel, and he envisions the team playing at a fast pace and getting out in transition more and more. Payton should find his fit there.

Orlando will likely be changing its roster in a meaningful way though. There will be an adjustment for everyone.

Next: Frank Vogel envisions Orlando Magic playing fast

Payton though seems excited for the challenge and the opportunity oncoming.