What player is the Orlando Magic risking the season on? Who does the season turn on next season?
Scricca: Elfrid Payton. This is the year he has to prove he can be a starting-caliber point guard. When he was good last season, so were the Magic. It will be no different in 2018. He needs to build off the way he finished last season, and if he does, the Magic can feel good about where they are and probably win a few games along the way. If he stagnates or regresses, it might be time to move on from him. The Magic do not have a ready-made replacement for him, either. A down year for Payton could put them in a tough situation, but a step forward (especially on defense) would pay dividends.
Rossman-Reich: It is Elfrid Payton, bar none. The Magic were brilliant offensively with their starting lineup last year after the All-Star Break. And Payton’s transformation was a big reason why. The fast-break style really fits him and he made teams pay even without a consistent jumper. But his future and the Magic’s future relies on him playing better defense. The Magic are still a defense-first team. And that is extremely tough to do successfully if the point guard struggles defensively. Payton has to get back his defensive reputation for the Magic to have any success this season.
Doyle: I have to agree with everyone else here. This is the biggest season in Elfrid Payton’s career. His future with Orlando depends on how well he can play this season. The team’s success is also dependent on him because of his defense. It has been awful the past few seasons and the team needs him to be at his best if they want to be a contender. If he wants to be the team’s point guard of the future, he needs to play better than he ever has. If he does not, it is easy to guess where Orlando will be going with their next lottery pick.
Treadway: I agree with everyone again, it is certainly Elfrid Payton’s make or break year. In most cases whether the point guard is the vocal team leader or the captain of the team or not. They certainly are the proverbial bus drivers who make the team go. We have seen that Payton has the speed and the passing ability to make this a run and gun and excellent fast break team. And we have also seen glimpses he can be a scoring threat even without having a solid outside shooting game. But in order for him to be THE point guard for the Magic and to stay with this team, he will need to do this on a consistent basis. Something we have not seen from him yet. If Payton can play at a high level and bring back the defensive intensity he was known for in college, the Magic will be able to close a whole lot more of the games they have squandered away the last couple of years. If he plays the same way he has, they could increase their record but he may not end up being with the team to see that number jump up significantly.