2014 NBA Draft Prospect Profile: Elfrid Payton fits the new Suns model

Ronald Martinez

Can pass, defend, slash and score in the open court, but comes into the league having trouble making jumpers. Yep, that fits the new Phoenix Suns draft model to a T.

One of the late risers in this NBA Draft is a rangy point guard who can play both offense and defense, though he is quite rough around the edges and played only in the smaller Sun Belt Conference. Point guard Elfrid Payton has the size, athleticism and talent to be one of the best players in the Draft, but he is not a great scorer nor is he very aggressive on offense when his team needs him to score.

The basics

  • School: Louisiana-Lafayette
  • Height: 6'4" (but probably 6'8" with the hair)
  • Length: 6'7"
  • Weight: 185
  • Put up 19 points, 6 assists while grabbing nearly 3 steals per game
  • Strengths: fast breaks, passing, defense
  • Weaknesses: shooting, passive on offense, shooting
  • Just turned 21; despite being a junior, is only three weeks older than Kansas freshman Joel Embiid and two weeks older than Marcus Smart

Comparisons

A look at his strengths and weaknesses makes you think of Rajon Rondo or Ricky Rubio - guys with great athleticism who can get by in the NBA with passing and high level defense, but who cannot shoot with consistency no matter how open they are.

Even years into their careers, Rondo and Rubio cannot be counted on to make open shots and don't even want to try unless forced or they're feeling especially good about their game. And we're not talking jumpers from distance here. Rondo and Rubio both struggle to even make their open layups with consistency. But they can make up for their lack of shooting by hounding their opponent into a bad shooting night as well.

Payton is the same type of player in nearly every respect. Where Rubio and Rondo rank ahead of Payton is their incredible ability to find the open man even when the defense sags off. Those two can get 10 assists before they get 10 points. Payton has to prove he can do this too, or figure out how to score. He was second in the NCAA in assists per 40 minutes (6.7).

Two other point guards you might know came into the NBA with spotty shooting pedigrees who would rely on their playmaking and athleticism to succeed: Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe.

In many respects, Elfrid Payton is the "new Suns model" - great athleticism and basketball IQ that just needs to learn how to score (and make jumpers) consistently. His shooting form is awful, and will have to be completely remade. We'll see how that process works this season with Archie Goodwin, another young guard with everything going for him but shooting.

As rookie, Goran Dragic could not finish at the rim or make jumpers with any consistency. He got his points at the open court. As the years passed, Dragic figured out how to use his athleticism to create separation and score at the rim. Then he became a dead-eye shooter this past season.

Bledsoe couldn't shoot either, and still really struggles to make long jumpers with consistency. But he figured out how to score at the rim with his thick body, and he developed a short-range jumper in the paint as well.

On the Suns, Payton would be a supersized Ish Smith who could spend the next couple of years developing into the next great point guard prospect if he can learn how to score with consistency.

Scouting Reports

  • DraftExpress: Payton is a very good ball-handler, which makes him an excellent transition threat and allows him to get into the paint very effectively. He can create his own shot and break down defenders in pick and roll and one situations, showing good potential in this area as he continues to mature and polishes up his skill-level. Perhaps Payton's most attractive and likely also his most NBA-ready skill is his defense. He takes great pride in his work here, showing a high intensity level and extremely quick feet laterally, which allow him to get over the top of screens, and also stay in front of opponents on the perimeter.
  • NBADraft.net: Deadly first step and killer crossover allow him to get to the basket seemingly at will...Can play slightly out-of-control at times. Currently averaging 3.8 turnovers per game this year, although his assists have risen this season.
  • NBADraftInsider.com: There are very few basketball players that have the quickness Payton has with the ball in his hands. He turns the corner with the ball in his hands off the bounce or in a pick-and-roll setting as well as any point guard in the country. Last year he was in the 83rd percentile in pick-and-roll situations according to Synergy Sports Data scoring with a fairly low turnover percentage.

Suns Draft Potential

The Phoenix Suns have three picks from 14-27 and Payton could be taken with any of them. Payton would be a high end prospect as a good insurance policy in case Dragic or Bledsoe leaves in free agency or trade in the next year or so.

In the meantime, Payton is young enough and comes from a small-enough background to slide right into Ish Smith's third point guard role and the Suns wouldn't miss a beat, while Payton has a much higher ceiling than Smith. Payton is bigger and has a much better game at the rim than Ish.

GM Ryan McDonough is credited with drafting similar players in Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley, and last year took Archie Goodwin. All players with similar prospect profiles to Elfrid Payton.

Years ago, a Suns coach couldn't imagine rotation time for a point guard who couldn't shoot (Rondo), no matter how talented he was in every other area. Think Jeff Hornacek feels the same?

Elfrid Payton and Archie Goodwin could be the back court of the future for the Suns IF either or both can figure out how to make consistent jump shots.

Video Profile - DraftExpress

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