With three weeks to go until the 2014 NBA Draft, we’ll take a look at one of the best point guards outside of the lottery. Elfrid Payton’s stock has been steadily rising over the past month and one team is going to get a very talented player. Payton played three years at Louisiana Lafayette, but doesn’t turn 21 years old until next February. He averaged 19.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 2.3 steals per game in his junior year, while shooting 50 percent from the field.
One of Payton’s greatest attributes is his size. He has tremendous physical tools and uses them to his advantage. He measured 6’ 3.75” with a 6’8” wingspan and 8’ 2.5” standing reach at this year’s NBA Draft Combine. He also recorded a 35.5” max vert and displayed his impressive athleticism in college. Payton is explosively quick in the open floor and uses his skilled ball-handling abilities to get into the paint and either create his own shot or make a play for a teammate.
Payton’s size and court vision should make him an effective point guard at the next level, but it’s his defensive ability that will allow him to contribute almost immediately. The combination of Payton’s length, effort and ability to read a defense and stay in front of his opponent makes him a talented defender. He has good lateral quickness and the ability to get in passing lanes and cause turnovers, as is evidenced by his 2.3 steals per game. Payton is a skilled rebounder for a point guard, which helps him get out on the break and lead his team in transition. He’s also able to guard multiple positions, which every NBA team covets in a player these days.
Payton’s glaring weakness is his poor outside shot. He shot just 26 percent from beyond the arc this season and only 59 percent from the free throw line. He also needs to add some weight and strength to his frame over the next year, and become better at protecting the ball. Payton turned the ball over 3.8 times per game this season, which is something he should be able to improve as his game matures. He’s less than a month older than some of the freshman in this year’s draft class and has star-like potential at the next level, but these notable weaknesses will likely keep him out of the lottery.
When looking at Payton’s strengths and weaknesses, they are comparable to Rajon Rondo’s pre-draft scouting report. Rondo was also a skilled ball-handler, a talented penetrator and facilitator, and a horrid outside shooter. Their pre-draft three-point and free throw percentages are even almost identical as Rondo shot 27 percent from beyond the arc and 57 percent from the free throw line. Payton may never become a legitimate threat from outside, but if he can carve out a career even close to Rondo’s, he’ll make some team very happy. Look for Payton to go somewhere in the mid-first round of the draft.
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