Something has clicked for Orlando Magic point guard Elfrid Payton.
That put-back slam over Taj Gibson was two of his 17 points, to go with nine rebounds, nine assists, two steals and two triples.
Payton struggled mightily the first half of the season. Specifically the first few months. He looked completely lost.
But something happened in mid-January. Something clicked. And since January 16, Payton’s numbers look like this:
- 11.5 points
- 45.1% field goals
- 7.8 assists
- 5.2 rebounds
- 1.9 steals
The last 17 games? Even better.
- 13.9 points
- 46% field goals
- 9.0 assists
- 6.3 rebounds
- 2.2 steals
His jump shot is definitely a big question, but Payton is beginning to strongly resemble a young Rajon Rondo. And this Orlando Magic team is one that other teams in the Eastern Conference should be heavily concerned about in the near future.
The Magic somewhat remind me of the 2012-13 Portland Trail Blazers. They were a team that won 33 games but had a core of LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard, Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews.
Now I am not saying this Orlando team possessions as much star talent as the current Portland team does, but in the Eastern Conference they can make some legitimate noise in the very near future with a core of Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo, Nikola Vucevic and Tobias Harris.
What happens with Harris in the off-season will be key considering he is a restricted free agent. There were some rumblings during the season that he wanted to leave Orlando. The Magic also have Aaron Gordon, the fourth overall pick in the 2014 draft, who they’ve hardly gotten anything from.
If this team can stick with this core and let their “big 3” of Payton, Oladipo and Vucevic grow with the right head coach, something that may be as vital as anything, the Orlando Magic will be a team to watch in the East.