By Josh Cohen
Nov. 9, 2017
ORLANDO – Elfrid Payton, who made his return on Wednesday after an eight-game absence because of a hamstring injury, is capable of leading the NBA in assists. There aren’t many other point guards who possess his court vision, instincts and selflessness.
Now in his fourth season with the Magic, Payton dished out 11 dimes in Orlando’s win over New York. As a team, the Magic accumulated a season-best 31 assists.
Ever since Frank Vogel’s adjustment to push the pace and play at a faster tempo – which coincided with the Terrence Ross trade around last season’s All-Star break – Payton’s game has soared. After this style change, he logged five triple-doubles, led all point guards in offensive rebounding and ranked seventh in assists.
Teams that are young and have an abundance of athleticism and agility across the roster – like the Magic – generally flourish when they are able to fly up and down the floor. And it starts with having a floor general that won’t allow opponents to configure their half-court defense.
Payton’s vivacity helped the Magic rack up 21 fast break points against the Knicks. Even after made baskets by New York, Orlando was able to run in transition and respond on the other end largely because of E.P.’s motor and alertness. Forcing the Knicks into 23 turnovers was also a factor for the Magic and their relentlessness in transition.
After the win, Payton acknowledged what his primary function is on this team, and he couldn’t have said it any better.
“It feels good (to hear the praise) and that’s what I’m here for – to make everybody’s job as easy as possible.”
“To hear that (praise) it feels good, but I’ve got to keep pushing it, trying to get better and continue to get all of them great shots.”
That’s what you want in a point guard, someone who helps put his teammates in the most favorable positions to succeed.
Here’s a look at a few plays that highlight that: