In a deal that came late on deadline day, the Phoenix Suns acquired Elfrid Payton from the Orlando Magic for a second round pick.
Phoenix has developing young players up and down their roster at every position except for point guard. Tyler Ulis is a nice enough player, but this season has proven he’s best utilized as a backup. With Payton, the Suns now have a worthy flyer for the rest of the season and will get to see how he meshes with Devin Booker in the backcourt.
Payton is a good all-around player at the point guard position. His shooting has been the challenge in his development to this point though he's improved up to 37.3 percent this season on three-pointers. He excels when he can get in the paint to score himself or make plays for his teammate. He’s also good in transition. Unfortunately, Orlando was unable to put him in position to consistently play to his strengths.
All too often, the Magic were stuck playing a halfcourt game where Payton struggled. For a non-shooting point guard to be successful, you need to surround him with shooters. Orlando was never able to pull that off for Payton in either style or personnel.
With Phoenix, Payton will get to play in an up tempo system with players who can shoot and score. He’ll be an interesting mix with Booker as they largely offset each other’s weaknesses. Payton is a creator and can get Booker open looks. In turn, Booker’s shooting should help open the floor for Payton.
Payton was often at his best with Orlando when he was running the floor with Aaron Gordon filling the wing. He’ll now do that with Marquese Chriss in Phoenix. He’ll also benefit from T.J. Warren’s consistent scoring, much as he did with Tobias Harris.
The lone worry for the Suns is what to do with Payton this summer. He’s a restricted free agent after the season and Phoenix will have just 25 games or so to evaluate him on their roster. While not ideal, it isn’t something the Suns can’t work around. They are still in the rebuilding phase, so they aren’t exactly pressed for time to figure it out.
Grade for the Suns: B-
On its face, this deal looks like a disaster for the Magic. Payton was a lottery pick just four years ago and now he was dealt for a second round pick. But it is important to remember that the current Orlando front office didn’t draft Payton. They had no attachment to him, and it appears they also had no desire to pay him this summer.
Payton was acquired in a draft day trade with Philadelphia that saw Orlando give the 76ers one of their own first rounders back and the draft rights to Dario Saric. That deal has turned out to be extremely lopsided in Philly’s favor.
A new front office can’t go back in time. They can only move forward and do what they can to clear the decks and reset. That is what Jeff Weltman and John Hammond have begun to do in Orlando. They’ll move forward with D.J. Augustin and Shelvin Mack, and the better floor balance they provide, at point guard for the rest of this season. Weltman said there was no timetable to rebuild when he joined the Magic. The approach since that day has born that out. All Orlando fans can do is remain patient as the cap sheet clears up and draft picks are made.
Grade for the Magic: C