Fast break style continues to unleash Elfrid Payton

Feb 4, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Orlando Magic guard Elfrid Payton (4) dribbles against the Atlanta Hawks in the first quarter at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 4, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Orlando Magic guard Elfrid Payton (4) dribbles against the Atlanta Hawks in the first quarter at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports /

Elfrid Payton has played a different level of basketball for the last couple of game, notching his third triple double of the season.

The 2014 draft class will become eligible for contract extensions this summer, putting the Orlando Magic into a difficult decision regarding two key players.

Elfrid Payton looks to be trying to prove his role as Orlando Magic’s future point guard. Payton knows this opportunity is coming up and he is showing the Magic the player the team could use in the future. The Magic’s new fast-breaking style seems to fit Payton well.

RealGM has rolled out a list of players from the 2014 draft with predictions whether or not teams will give out contract extensions. RealGM predicted the Magic will not give Payton an extension. Quite simply, in Keith Smith of RealGM’s estimation, Payton is too inconsistent to value adequately.

But it is weeks like the week Payton is having now that has everyone getting a bit more excited.

Payton rounded up 13 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds in a Monday night loss to the Sacramento Kings. It was Payton’s third triple-double this season, which is as many as he had in his first two seasons with the Magic altogether, and his third in five games. Payton became the Magic’s franchise leader in triple doubles.

Since the All-Star Break, Payton is averaging 12.0 points per game (about the same as before the break). But he has seen his assists per game jump to 8.2 assists per game and his rebounds jump to 7.7 per game. He is involved in everything the Magic do.

Since the All-Star Break, the Magic have a team-best +3.1 net rating with Payton on the floor. They have a team-worst -21.6 net rating with him off the floor. Payton has made a tremendous impact on the team since the break.

It is clear Payton has benefited more from the team’s new style than anyone else on the Magic. Orlando’s new up-tempo, spread style is helping Payton in transition, giving him more space on the floor to drive to the basket. He is also able to move the ball to open shooters and load up his assist numbers.

Payton has been playing like a young version of Rajon Rondo from the Boston Celtics during the Celtics’ title run.

The choice to go smaller has helped Payton get loose in transition.

Elfrid Payton told Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:

"“It impacts a lot. It gives me a lot more space to operate, to do what I love and get everybody involved and find shooters. We’ve got a big rolling to the rim, and when Vooch is there, he’s popping.”"

Frank Vogel also agrees that Payton has been playing better with the smaller lineups. Vogel tells Orlando Magic Daily:

"“I just love that he is playing with confidence. It hasn’t always looked that way this year. He’s been in attack mode. Everyone benefits from space, but the point guard benefits from space more than that. The rebounds are about hustle. When he has the space and the opportunity, he is capable of getting double-digit points and double-digit assists.”"

Payton is now able to get everyone on the team involved on the court in both offense and defense. But his performance has not reflected on the team yet, as the Magic are 3-7 in their last 10 games.

The Magic are in spot to receive a top-5 pick in this year’s NBA Draft. Payton’s inconsistency since drafting him could put the Magic in search of a point guard with that top pick. This could lead the Magic deciding not to extend Payton’s contract and putting him in the market for restricted free agency, or to deal him before then.

Inconsistency is a problem with Payton, Orlando will probably watch him to see how he plays out to the end of the season. This strong run of play has shown his promise and exactly what he can be at his best. The question is whether he can do that every night.

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The Magic could reconsider his future since Payton is playing at an improved level now. Since the All-Star Break, he has looked like the team’s best player.