The Orlando Magic have been down this road before, even if Elfrid Payton was not yet born the first time it happened. In 1993, they pulled off a trade the night of the NBA draft to obtain the rights to little-known Penny Hardaway, whom they envisioned as the successor at point guard to popular veteran Scott Skiles. Last June, they pulled off a trade the night of the draft to obtain the rights to the little-known Payton, whom they envisioned as the successor at point guard to popular veteran Jameer Nelson. While Payton doesn't possess the length or offensive skills Hardaway did, the 21-year-old out of Louisiana-Lafayette finished his rookie season with this in common: He played in all 82 of the Magic's games. Even more impressively, his 533 assists -- without having a big man as dominant as Shaquille O'Neal or a 3-point shooter as prolific as Dennis Scott -- were only 11 shy of Hardaway's franchise rookie record. "Elfrid came in and I thought, all things considered, did a really good job," said general manager Rob Hennigan, who gave up a future first-round and second-round draft pick after Payton was originally taken 10th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers. "It's very challenging for a rookie point guard to come in and play the type of minutes he played. There's such an adjustment period mentally and physically for any type of point guard when you're a rookie, let alone a starting point guard. We saw as the season progressed, he became more comfortable in the way he was operating on the floor." Payton started the first 10 games of the season, during which the Magic went 4-6. He was brought off the bench by Jacque Vaughn, their coach at the time, for the next 19 games before returning to the starting lineup for good Dec. 21 against the Sixers. Deciding to pair him with Victor Oladipo, their first-round choice from a year earlier, was not without its rough patches. The Magic had a 5-18 record from just before Christmas until they fired Vaughn in early February and replaced him with one of his assistants, James Borrego. Opposing teams would often back off on Payton and dare him to shoot more than eight or 10 feet away from the basket.
Magic's Payton fit right in as rookie, but shooting must improve
Fox Sports Florida | May 13